I just finished up a Francis Chan Bible study on prayer...WOW. I learned more than I ever thought possible. I so want to be a theologian with the depth of understanding that Francis Chan has one day. So in one of his video lessons, he told a story of a teenage boy who was struggling to find faith in the power of prayer. His dad was diagnosed with cancer, and he prayed and prayed and prayed for his father to be healed. The Lord healed his father for the time being, however in time, the cancer came back. The teen again prayed and prayed and prayed for the health of his father, but this time the cancer did not relent, and his father passed away. This led the teen to lose faith in his prayers, since he couldn't see a clear way that they had "worked" in his life. Francis Chan then brought up the question of why pray, why petition the Lord, if (as the Bible clearly states), our entire lives are planned out before we are even born? Why pray if the outcome is already set for us?
"All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:16This question reallly gripped me. I needed to find an explanation for the extreme value that I placed on prayer in my life. I needed to figure out how exactly I was able to cling to this understanding. I came to realize this: We should not pray to change the outcome of a situation, we should pray to change our mindset towards that situation.
This, of course, takes great faith. We have to believe that His plans are the best thing for us without even knowing what they are... I believe that knowing God's character helps greatly with this. I mean, it's definitely much easier to trust someone the more deeply you know them.
"'For I know the plans I have for you', says the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.'" Jeremiah 29:11
"...if God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31One thing that God definitely is is FOR US. He acts for our benefit, to bring us closer to Him and shape us to be more like Him. This doesn't always, or even usually, come in the form of blessings unlimited, pleasant times, and "the good life". No, Jesus is MUCH better to us than that. He loves us too much to leave us the way we are plus a few good experiences. Jesus refines us, through fire and pain and trial and struggle, because He is FOR US. We may not be able to understand it at the time, but I am CONFIDENT that being refined by the Lord, however painfully, is greater than being showered by all of the world's blessings. Therefore, again we should not pray to change our situation, as if we are following the Lord we can be confident it is the best thing for us. Instead, we should pray to change our mindset towards our situation.
Now, I don't want to just accept what Christ wants for me, I want to WANT what Christ wants for me. I want to LOVE what Christ wants for me. I want His will to be my own. My upmost goal in life is to be like Christ...this means to act like He acts, look like He looks, and want what He wants...I want to want what He wants more than anything. (hahaha that's a mouthful) Then, when His will is my own, I will know that I am an effective servant of the Lord.
"...But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:16So I end with this quote, that I think exemplifies everything that I feel and long for and hope in regarding prayer. May we reject attempting to change our circumstances, and welcome the Lord's attempt to change us through circumstances.
- Amy Carmichael
"And shall I pray Thee change Thy will, my Father, until it be according unto mine? But no, Lord, no that never shall be, rather I pray Thee blend my human will with Thine.
I pray Thee hush the hurrying, eager longing,
I pray Thee sooth the pangs of keen desire-
See, in my quiet places, wishes thronging-
Forbid them Lord, purge, though it be with fire."