Prayer – Is it Really That Simple?

by Andy Wood on June 4, 2008

in Tense Truths

PrayerTense Truth:  For every big answered prayer you experience, you can find some trivial something God chose not to say “yes” to.  For every simple request He responds to, you can find some issue of global significance or suffering that He appears oblivious to.  Regardless, the Kingdom of God moves forward on that praying of its people, and when we don’t ask, we don’t receive.


Did you ever dissect a rose or a tulip or something in biology class?  You know – where you learned about those parts, like the pistil, the anvil, the stirrup, the air ducts, the seaman, and all that stuff?  Did the thought ever occur to you that no matter how interesting the inner understanding may be, what makes the flower beautiful is the whole?

A lot of people approach prayer the same way.  They feel compelled to slice it, dice it, dissect it, analyze it.  They ask “Why?” and “How?” questions a lot.  I’ll confess, those kinds of thoughts rattle around in my head.  My wife, the faith warrior, will talk about some simple thing the Lord wonderfully gave her, like a parking place or a sale at Kirkland’s or a thought to call somebody.  And I’ll be thinking, “Okay, but really…”  Or I’ll go off on a riff like I did last week about praying for the economy or gas prices (are they really slipping?) or the environment, and the whole time I’m opining, I’m thinking, “People are going to think I’m nuts.”

I admire people like my wife, because they can enjoy the flowers without having to figure it all out.  I gave her flowers and sent her on a scavenger hunt for her birthday yesterday.  She didn’t come in talking about petals or staples or ovaries or hems or sheaves.  She just enjoyed the rose and the daisies.  And she does the same thing with praying.  She just talks and listens to God.

I was visiting with a guy in my church recently.  He said to me, “I just wish I could talk to God like I’m talking to you.”

“Why can’t you?” I asked.

So he started.  His prayer closet is his workout bench and his shower.  Hey, whatever works, I guess.  But wow!  Has God ever started talking back!

Sometimes I feel like Charlie Brown in A Charlie Brown Christmas when it comes to prayer.  What’s it all about, Linus?

So I look in my Bible, and learn some things.  Things about what prayer wasn’t intended to be, and some things about what prayer was intended to be.

Prayer was NOT intended to be:

  • A means of impressing people. Haunting, those words of Jesus:  They have their reward.  God watches motives and rewards accordingly.  If I pray to impress (wow, that sounds like a cool book title), God will let me impress people.  I get an instant answer to my true prayer.  So maybe the next time I’m howling at God about how He isn’t hearing my requests, maybe He’ll say, “Of course I am – you just don’t realize what you’re really asking for.”
  • An incantation. Oh, those pagans.  How silly to think they can pray the same thing over and over and think that if they say it louder, faster, over and over, the gods will… uh… hear.  Hmmm.  Do I ever do that?

Prayer Hand

  • Reduced to fit your system. Gotta love those systems, and we all have them.  Theological systems.  Church growth systems.  Discipleship systems.  Spiritual gifts systems, complete with psychological-type tests.  Methodologies.

The result?  Calivinist prayer.  Arminian prayer.  Charismatic prayer.  Baptist prayer.  Catholic prayer.  Navigators prayer.  Gothard-based prayer.

So does God get offended by all that?  I don’t think so.  He just eventually puts us into situations where our systems self-destruct and we’re left totally abandoned to Him and Him alone.  Sovereignly, and in love, of course.

So what did Jesus intend prayer to be?  Based on how He taught us to pray, prayer is:

  • The voice of our worship.  Prayer is the place where we express to our strong and beautiful God how strong and beautiful He is, in as many creative and fresh ways as we can imagine.
  • Our method of commitment. Prayer is the means by which we renew our devotion and commitment to the Lord Jesus.  Through prayer be bring our hearts and values into alignment with God’s heart and values.
  • Our channel for receiving. “You have not because you ask not,” James said.  “Ask and you shall receive” – that was Jesus.  Somebody posted a comment on another blog recently that said that Jesus didn’t instruct His disciples to pray for physical needs.  Ha!  What do you call the model prayer and daily bread?  Are we supposed to ask God for our personal needs or desires?  What do you call half the book of Psalms?
  • Our avenue of forgiveness. Do you realize what a precious commodity forgiveness is?  Jesus makes that experience available to you on a daily basis.  And by this I don’t just mean forgiveness of our sins before God, but the capacity to forgive others for their transgressions against us.
  • Our source of unity. Unity doesn’t begin in the presence of other people.  Unity begins in the presence of God.  The entire model prayer is written in plural.  Our Father, give us, forgive us.  That is no accident.
  • Our power over temptation. Where do you get the power over temptation?  In prayer!  The problem is, some people want to wait until they are tempted before they pray.  If you wait that long, you’re sunk!
  • Our resource for warfare. “Deliver us from the evil one,” Jesus said in his prayer sample.  Maybe if you talk to God about the devil, you won’t find yourself talking to the devil about God.

This prayer – this prototype of communication with God – was revolutionary in how elementary it was.  I’ll guarantee you, somebody on the Mount that day whispered to himself, “Is that it really that simple?”

Yeah.  Believe it is.

(Photo by ~The Olis In ‘Consin~ ; Hand diagram by the Navigators)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

kenSwitzer June 5, 2008 at 9:53 pm

Great post/thought!!

I mentioned on a recent post somewhere that I was too lazy to worry. Well, that is a partial truth. Not that any of it is a lie but that is not the whole story.

I try very hard to not worry about even the smallest things and let God handle and my life as He sees fit. That means everything from a parking space (I am working on this one, I can not seem to find the “perfectest” spot anywhere I go) to life altering situations like buying a new house.

I also have to admit that I have had “help” in learning to do this. My father dies when I was 11 years old and I so very badly want him to come back. I asked for that every night for a long time. Then one day my mom and I move to Lubbock leaving the only ties to him that I had. As it turns out, we moved in across the street from the cutest little red haired girl I have ever known. We were eventually married and she has become the best thing to ever happen to me in my life.

So, I sat back and looked at my life and realized, much like the country song, sometimes the best things are unanswered prayers. While I thought that God was ignoring my desires for my dad to come back he was telling me all along to be patient and I would get an even better answer that what I wanted. From that time on I realized to ask for things that I wanted but be happy if I did not get them because, chances are, something better is coming.

Wow, that went somewhere different. I think that came from your comments about seeing the whole picture.

Much like your time in the closet….you know what I mean, I picked up on one (other) major thing in your post.
I need to work on this. I have, since the afore mentioned death of my dad, been a “loner”. Yes, I am married bur no one get into certain places in my life….other than God, and I have resisted that at times. I know this is an issue for me so I am posting things on this, and other, blogs to see if it will help me in this area.

So my prayer for this that I say every day is, “Please let me open my heart to others more…a little.”

And YES, it is THAT easy. Just look above and all of the stuff I have put here that most people would never get to know about me.

Thanks for being here!!

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: