Have you ever made a purchase only to be disappointed?
I am always trying to warn my kids, that what they see on TV commercials is almost never what they will have when they get it home.
I sure wish I’d listened to my own advice.
I have an iPhone and iPad, so, I’m constantly looking through the App Store trying to find the latest and greatest stuff to make my life “easier.”
You read the reviews, ask a few people who might know about such things, then lay down the cash and make the purchase.
I’ve been trying to find a way to make my iPad more interactive with our weekend services, and I found this software that sounded like it might do what I needed it to do, possibly, maybe, sort of.
But, when I bought it, it did everything it said it would do, just not what I wanted it to do. So, I tried to manipulate my computer, or projectors and messed with every setting I could find.
Within 24 hours, I had requested a refund for the software purchase and was rebuilding my entire laptop because what I tried to do had destroyed it… I am an idiot.
Sometimes we get such grandiose ideas and think so much of our own plans that we miss basic details.
- “I know that’s what it says, but if I try this it might work.”
- “The instructions say you can’t do it, but I’m pretty sure I can figure it out.”
- “No one else in the known universe is able to pull this off, but I’m pretty sure everybody else in existence is stupid except for me… I got this one covered.”
Ever been there? The writings on the wall, or least in the instruction manual, but we just ignore it and try and make the impossible happen.
It’s really a question of purpose. What was the software made for? What was the tool designed to do? What was its intended purpose?
For the person who prays, I think this is a most important question. What is the purpose of prayer?
If you ask yourself the question does prayer work, you have to ask yourself what the purpose of prayer is. Because if you don’t know what its intended purpose is, how can you know if it works?
For most of us, we think that the purpose of prayer is for God to do what we want Him to do. You know, prayers filled with those kinds of requests that we humans offer up:
- “God, I know I didn’t study for this test, but can you please let the information miraculously appear in my brain.”
- “Lord, she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. I’m sure you brought her here so that she would fall in love with me… so let it be done.”
- “God, I need cash.”
Yes, we ask favors of God a regular basis. Some are those materialistic requests, while others are far more spiritual. We can ask for a sense of peace, a healing, for wisdom and guidance, or any old miracle.
I’d love to tell you that any time we make a heartfelt, repentant and sincere request, the God of the universe always delivers.
The trouble is, He doesn’t.
Plans fall through, cancer remains, spouses walk out, and people die.
So, if the purpose of prayer is that God answers our requests, I have bad news… prayer doesn’t work.
Now, don’t get in a tizzy. God moves, God heals, God is still doing miracles today. But, the purpose of prayer is not to make God do what we want Him to do.
God does come to our aid, He miraculously shows up when we call on His name, and from biblical days forward we are called the people of prayer so that we can testify how God interacts and intervenes in the lives of men.
But, if we are completely honest, there are far too many prayer requests that go completely unfulfilled to even begin to make a case that the number one purpose of prayer is to get requests fulfilled.
So, the question remains, what is the purpose of prayer?
I believe the Scriptures clear, God is in the business of changing lives, and our prayer is to be a conversation with Him. That conversation is not really meant for us to influence or manipulate God, but for Him to change us.
The purpose of prayer is that we would relate to God in a way that we see Him, know Him and are changed by Him to become more like He is, rather than making Him like us.
Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
That’s why we often make requests that appear to go unanswered. It’s not that God doesn’t hear us, or we didn’t have enough faith when we asked. Often times we were just asking for the wrong thing, or at the wrong time, and God had a better/different answer.
The reason He often doesn’t give us what we ask for, is that He is more interested in changing us into who we are supposed to become than giving us what we think we need.
This is extremely difficult when we’re asking for things, often for others, when we can see no possible reason God wouldn’t do this thing:
- the restoration of the marriage
- the healing a child
- the salvation of a friend
It is in these areas that we find great confusion. Why in the world would God not answer this request?
If the purpose of prayer is not to answer requests, but to move us into deeper relationship with God. To make us more like Him, to make us more His…
Then, in these most confusing moments of ‘unanswered’ prayer, the purpose of prayer becomes most clear… we learn to trust Him, accept His will, and follow His way… no matter what.
We can’t be so childish to believe that God teaches us to pray so that He can be our great shopping center in the sky. And, we can be so arrogant to believe that we could always understand and know the mind of the God of the universe in every situation.
Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
So, we pray. We trust. We grow. We live.