Prayer: God’s will or ours?

So what happens most in a Christian church service? Singing hymns? Reciting liturgy? Reading Scripture? Hearing a sermon? How about prayer? Our confession of sins often comes in prayer form, as well as our asking of forgiveness, our giving thanks for God’s many blessings, our needs for ourselves and others are offered in prayer. And even for the most casual Christian, prayer comes home with us from church. How often we say or hear the words, “I’ll be praying for you,” or “You are in my thoughts and prayers.” Even our president is often heard saying on behalf of the people of our nation, “Our prayers go out to…” as he mentions the victims of one tragedy or another.

So what does this mean as we pray for families, friends, victims or ourselves? What purpose does prayer fill in our church or our bedside at night? Can we pray for anything? Will God be glad to provide or say yes to any and every prayer? Such questions. Jesus Himself said, “If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:19-20.

But realistically, we cannot expect all prayers to be answered according to our will. Our wills are tainted by our inner sin, selfishness, greed or lack of knowledge of God’s future blessings. Even our most sincere, well-meaning prayers may not be answered affirmatively if they are not completely in God’s will. We certainly cannot pray to win the lottery, close the prayer “In Jesus’ name I pray,” and expect what is not wholesome for us.

We are reminded of what we say in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done.” God’s will, not ours be done. When we pray, we do not talk God into granting something He otherwise would not; we don’t wear God down to seeing things our way or giving in to us. We shouldn’t expect God to be a genie in a bottle granting our very wishes.

What we need to understand is this: we pray — not to conform God to our thinking, but for us to conform to God’s thinking. Prayer doesn’t change God; prayer changes us. When we pray in Jesus’ name, it’s not the mere mention of His name that gets our heavenly Father’s attention. Praying in Jesus’ name means all that Jesus taught and lived by, His obedience to the Father’s will and trust in the promise to those of faith in Christ by the cross. We find ourselves in prayer asking for God’s will and blessing on us. And when we pray for positive outcomes of our hardships, we pray that these would happen in God’s time, according to His purpose, that our hardship would serve to strengthen our faith and resolve. For God’s will to not only be done, but be done in us and among us, God is only most pleased to answer.

To learn more about prayer, contact our churches: St. Paul Lutheran church in Fredonia (672-6731), Immanuel Lutheran Church in Gowanda (532-4342) or Trinity Lutheran church in Silver Creek (934-2002).