Our prayers reveal what we want. To know the content of a man’s prayer life is to have a window into that man’s soul, because the things that matter most to us—the things we really live for—will inevitably fill the substance of our prayers.
Realizing this is convicting. Just a glimpse into the gist of my prayers reveals that I am far more interested in myself than I am in God, or anyone else for that matter. It seems my personal ambitions and anxieties take precedent over everything else, and I really want to see that change.
This is why, as I’m writing this, I am asking the Lord to extend the grace of repentance to empty me of me and fill me with Himself. Though I tremble at the thought of what lengths God might need to go in order do that in me, I can pray that prayer with great confidence, knowing God is inclined to answer because it is a prayer according to His will.
The ask-whatever-you-wish promises of prayer in today’s reading can be confusing. Is God like some cosmic Santa Claus in the sky? When I close my eyes and my lips begin to move, should I picture a jolly old man with a white beard writing down my wish list? The short and simple answer is: “No.” Prayer is not climbing up and sitting on the knee of the man in the red suit, but bowing your knees to the will of a holy God who is your loving Father. God loves to give good gifts to His children in prayer, and the best gift He gives is a new heart.
When we strip prayer down to its essence, what we find at the center is wholehearted surrender to God. The goal of prayer is not getting what we request, but relinquishing ourselves to God and resting in the confident hope that whatever God chooses to do will be good and perfect (Romans 12:2).
That’s really what we see on the night Jesus was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Collapsing on the ground, sweating great drops of blood, Jesus pours out His heart: “Father, if You are willing, let this cup pass from Me, yet not My will, but Your will be done” (Luke 22:42).
Jesus’ specific request wasn’t granted, but His prayer was answered. His heart was so resigned to His Father’s will that He regarded His Father’s refusal as the answer to His truest prayer.
So take comfort, brothers, and be bold and persistent. Ask, seek, and knock! Pray until you can say in faith, “Not my will, but your will be done.” Though His answer is sometimes “No,” “No” is still an answer.
Written by Nate Shurden