I had no doubt that my favorite show would be picked up for a third season. (News Flash: White Collar’s been picked up for a third season!) I had no doubt that it would be rainy and cold this morning when I woke up. I had no doubt that the cat would throw up on something porous while I was at work today. I had no doubt that my alarm would go off this morning and that the lights would turn on and my car would start.
Every day, I demonstrate faith. And usually, that faith is placed in completely inconsequential things. So why do I pray the way I do?
“Wait, what? How did you make the leap from the weather and cat throw-up to prayer?” you ask. Oh, just making sure you’re with me.
James 1:6-8 says:
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
Confession time: For a long time now, I have been that double-minded, unstable person. My prayers, I realized, have been a study in contradiction: “God, please give me X.” And then a minute or so later, “Please help me deal correctly with the disappointment when I don’t get X.” No wonder I haven’t seen positive answers to my prayers! Basically, I’m saying to God, “I’d like You to please do this for me, but I seriously doubt You’re going to.”
And as a result, I’m also saying, “All that stuff You say in the Bible about how much You love me, and how You have a plan for me and how You give me good gifts? I don’t believe any of it.” I have to believe that one of the reasons I’ve experienced so much disappointment in the last couple of years is because of how I’ve been praying.
Do you pray like that sometimes? Do you ask God for something while at the very same time bracing for disappointment? Do you wonder why you experience disappointment more often than you do the joy of an affirmative answer to prayer?
If so, proof-read your prayers. It may very well be that the first half of your prayer is contradicted by the second half. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with asking God to help you keep your attitude in check, and there’s nothing wrong with asking that His will, and only His will be done in your life. But when we approach God expecting Him to not do what we want, we not only set ourselves up for frustration, we strip prayer of some of its power.
God is not easily confused. In fact, God is not ever confused. He knows what we want before we even ask it. And God can answer any prayer. But do you think you’d be willing to grant a friend’s request if she said, “Would you please do this for me? I know you won’t though. I really wish you would, but I’m expecting you to say no”? (I believe the old-fashioned term for this type of person is “wishy-washy”.)
Not only would you most likely not grant the request (if you could even find it in there anywhere), I bet you’d be a little insulted too. Does your friend think you care that little for her? Does she think you’re that powerless to help her? Does she think you’re even friends?
I haven’t asked Him, but I’m guessing God feels the same way when we pray for something, but expect nothing. It’s no wonder we have so many “unanswered” prayers! Or, maybe it’s just me…