I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t pray. From my time in the church nursery on, I was told I could talk to God anytime I wanted to. But I’ve often been confused about prayer.
In my late teens and early twenties, I thought prayer was something I needed to do to manipulate God. Fueled in part by Frank Peretti novels, I began to feel that God needed my prayers in order to act. If I would have thought this through to its logical conclusion I would have realized the absurdity of it, but apparently I didn’t. It was as if my prayers filled some sort of a tank, and if it finally got full enough, God would be able to move.
When realized that a sovereign God doesn’t need my help (Acts 17:25), it was a great relief. I could rest. I didn’t have to worry about someday hearing about all the things God wanted to accomplish but wasn’t able to because of my prayerlessness. That realization was a needed balm to my weary, fretful soul. But I’m afraid I became too lax in my prayer life, to my own detriment.
We should be careful not to presume that the right doctrine lies in the middle of two extremes, but in this case it does. Or perhaps this is best described as a both/and situation. Is God sovereign and able to do as he wishes without our help? Yes. Does God move in response to our prayers? Yes.
I still can’t explain how a sovereign God works through our prayers, but he does. He wants to hear our prayers, and he listens to us. I could spend a lifetime (and beyond) trying to plumb the depths of this glorious truth and never get to the bottom of it. The God who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11) for my good and his glory (Romans 8:28). And one of the means he accomplishes this is through my prayers.
I have seen some wonderful answers to prayer in the last year or so. I have watched God move in situations that I had given up as hopeless. I have seen God provide in ways that I never could have predicted.
But still my heart is heavy. We sin against each other and hurt each other. People receive devastating medical diagnoses. The mountains and obstacles often seem so very tall compared to our feeble abilities.
And so I pray. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, and I don’t know if it will be to my liking, but I know God will move in his time and in his way. For my good and his glory.