Hello? Anybody there?
Imagine calling a friend on the phone. You dial. It rings. They pick up. But this time there’s no “Hello” on the other end. No greeting. Your friend just expects you to start talking. So you do. You ask questions. No answer. You make observations. No answer. You’re expected to carry the entire conversation, including the “good-bye”. Ridiculous, right?
It’s just as ridiculous to not expect God to answer us when we pray. It is perfectly reasonable to expect someone to answer the phone when we call. It is just as reasonable to expect God to speak to us when we talk to Him. In fact, the reality is that He is the one initiating the conversation in the first place. So He is the caller. You’re answering. And He will answer back.
If you don’t expect God to answer when you pray, then what’s the point of prayer?
If prayer is conversation with your Father in Heaven, then you’re way off the mark when you pray without expecting an answer. In fact, when we pray without expectation we run the risk of offending God.
Let me ask you these questions:
- Did God send His only Son to live a perfect life, sacrifice it on the cross and be raised to new life? (John 3:1-17)
- Did God send His own Holy Spirit to inhabit His believers? (John 14:16-17) (Acts 1:4-5) (Acts 2:1-4)
- Did God say, again and again, that you should ask for and receive answers to prayer? (Matthew 7:7-12) (Matthew 21:22)
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, take some time to read and consider the Scriptures. Click through them and get a better idea of the kind of relationship God wants to have with you.
God gave us the gift of prayer as a two-way communication. Jesus paid with his life the ransom required to purify us and allow us to approach our Heavenly Father. Then the Holy Spirit was sent to inhabit each and every one of His followers. God moved heaven and earth to reestablish our lines of communication. Now we have the privilege of unmitigated communication with the Creator of the Universe.
If you answered “yes” to those questions, but you’re still praying without expecting an answer, there’s something else going on. You may be experiencing a disconnect due to these factors:
1) Your prayers are too focused on you.
If hearing yourself talk is the most operative component of your prayers, you need to stop altogether and refocus. It’s time for you to re-approach prayer with a new aim.
If we’re not careful, 100% of our prayers can be asking for something. I’m the Dad of four children, and I am often overwhelmed with the amount of need my children present. If my children only ever spoke to me when they were hungry, or needed a new shirt, we would have a pretty narrow relationship.
Thankfully, our Father in heaven isn’t easily exhausted like I am. But I still think He longs for so much more in our relationship than being our genie in a bottle. If your prayers revolve around your needs, and never venture into deeper discovery of who He is, then you’re just scratching the surface of relationship.
A great way to refocus your prayer is by using Scripture as a guide. Find a Psalm that resonates with your current state and pray through it, word for word. Think through what the psalmist must have been expecting when they lifted this prayer up to God in song. Laying a Scriptural template over your own prayers trains you to take on godly focus.
2) You’re thinking too little of yourself.
Humility is essential to prayer. However, false humility is as dangerous as pride. If you unnecessarily pound yourself into the ground, believing you’re not good enough for God to answer you, then you’re listening to someone else’s voice, not God’s.
God spoke of your value when He put in place His plan to redeem you and fill you with His own Spirit. He cherishes His relationship with you. Once you were alienated from Him, but through Christ you have been adopted into His family as a son or daughter of the Most High God.
What kind of Father doesn’t talk to His child? Your Father in heaven is not an absentee Dad. He promises again and again that if you draw near to Him, then He will draw near to you.
Bottom line: If you believe God doesn’t want to talk to you, you’re not taking Him at His word.
3) You’re looking for your answer, not His.
Are you absolutely submitted to God’s will, rather than your own? Or are you secretly hoping you can bend God to your will?
Entering prayer with pre-set expectations is dangerous. That sounds contradictory to what I’ve been saying. It’s not.
We can expect to hear from God. But we must not pre-determine what we are going to hear. We cannot expect God in heaven, who is eternally existent, all powerful and all-knowing to clap his hands and say, “Great idea!” every time we run a thought by Him. If He jumped on the bandwagon of every prayer we prayed, we’d find ourselves moving in some dangerous directions.
Many of us feel like God has let us down because He didn’t answer our prayers for things that are obviously good. Our friend was not healed. Our job was not spared. We didn’t get the money needed when we needed it. How could those things ever be in God’s will? I don’t know. We’ve all experienced suffering and injustice. We all have unanswered questions. However, that does not mean that God is silent, or that He is unaware of our need. Someday will understand. Until then He is more interested in whether or not we will accept His current answer.
Bowing to the will of our Father in heaven is a primary function of prayer. Surrender yourself to hearing and acting on His will, and I guarantee you will begin to hear His voice. You may even find the fabric of your prayers transforming as you do.
4) You’re expecting God to answer on your timetable.
God has three answers to prayer: “Yes”, “No” and “Wait”. I admittedly struggle with the third one the most. Who likes waiting? Not me. Sometimes I would rather hear a firm “No” about something I really desire than settle for a “Wait”, which seems much less satisfying at the moment.
The reality is that God knows exactly what I need and when I need it. He doesn’t give me everything I ask for, when I ask for it, any more than I give my kids cookies for breakfast. No matter how heartfelt their pleas, I know that’s not what’s best for them. Cookies have a place. That’s why they’re in the cupboard, but I’ll help my kids on the when and the how much.
God does not answer every prayer when and how we’d like Him to. However, He is faithful to answer each and every time.
- Are you confidently approaching God in prayer?
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)
- Are you expecting Him to hear you?
- Are you ready for Him to reply?
Bit by bit I’m writing this “How NOT to Pray” series with the intent of crafting it into my first eBook.