I remember as a child—and probably into the early years of my Christian discipleship—treating prayer like a shopping list: God, I’d like this and that, with this on top, oh and while you’re at it, can we have peace on earth too? Then, there’d be times I’d pray for much more serious issues, like loved ones who were seriously ill. Recently, I asked many people to pray for a relative who was seriously ill with COVID-19, whilst knowing that I have difficulty believing God saves one person over someone else just because there’s more prayer or because we ask for it. But I had to do something. He passed away. I haven’t lost faith, but I do wonder if my shopping list praying is ever the best use of prayer.
Paul confirms that when we pray we find it difficult to tune into the will of God and understand what the bigger picture is: he makes it known that the Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God. What I find more convincing about prayer is the use of it to tune into this will of God: to approach God with an openness that allows the Spirit to guide our thoughts and understanding; to spend time seeking our place in the reign of God and how we can be part of the healing of the world. For me, prayer isn’t about convincing God to act or telling God how to be in the world; it’s about allowing ourselves to become completely in tune with God so that we are part of the one body of Christ in thought and action. This oneness with God through the Spirit as the body of Christ is how we join in God’s work to transform he world. I still approach God with what I think the world and the people around me need, but I do it with an openness that God is likely to transform me as I do.
Do you approach God with an openness to be transformed by the Spirit?
God who hears our prayers, help me pray with the help of your Spirit.
When you next pray, give more time to listening and waiting.