One of the many books I’m reading right now (look for a post tomorrow regarding this multiple-books-at-once phenomena) is called Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell. In this book, Chapell argues that rarely do we ever consider the four little words that we tack on to the end of our prayers–“In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” Instead, he says that if we would begin our prayers with the consideration and understanding that we’re invoking the name of Christ and His blessing upon everything that we’re about to pray, we would probably pray a little differently. It has definitely helped to bring some clarity and reform to my prayers lately.
One thing I read this morning struck me in a fresh way. Regarding the idea of praying specifically rather than generally, Chapell sites the example of George Mueller, the 19th-century missionary and orphanage founder. During his lifetime, “Mueller recorded over fifty thousand answers to specific prayers. He said that approximately ten thousand of the answers came on the day the prayers were offered” (p. 107). I was convicted regarding my own prayer life in that far too often my prayers are general and ambiguous. In fact, they are often so airy that I would be hard-pressed to pinpoint a time and place in which God came and answered according to His will in cooperation with my earnest request. Not only does this type of praying disqualify one from a life of sincere and childlike faith in the God who longs to give His children His best for them, but it also short circuits the process of spiritual maturation and growth that accompanies times of sincere dependence and reliance upon God to come through on your behalf.
So, I began thinking this morning, “Why shouldn’t I pray audaciously? Why shouldn’t I pray for the seemingly finite things? Why shouldn’t I pray for both the little things and the big things? Do I think that I’ll bother God with the small requests? Do I think God is too small or doesn’t care enough to answer the large requests? Do I fear that I’ll begin to think of God only as a vending machine who bends at my every whim? Or perhaps the vending machine idea of God is merely an excuse for my lack of faith?” Perhaps there’s a balance to be discovered.
Chapell continues, “By asking in Jesus’ name, Mueller expected God to answer as heaven knew was best” (p. 107). I think that’s part of the balance–knowing that the Holy Spirit interprets our prayers to the Father through the intercession of the Son in such a way that God will answer as He knows is best. This illiminates the fear of praying for what may not be God’s will. We pray in His name, with His authority, knowing that He will answer in His way, not ours. And this fact alone should encourage us to pray more earnestly and more specifically, not the opposite.