Sunday, August 10, 2008

Be Prepared

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

                        James 5.16

Unequalled Opportunity

Our ability to ask for things significantly affects our personal and professional progress. When major opportunities surface, we gather our thoughts and outline our requests in advance. We do our best to be fully prepared to convey our desires and needs clearly and to persuade those we approach that we’re sincere, trustworthy, and sensitive to the nature of our request.

This hardly needs saying, but no person on Earth compares to God in terms of asking for things. His concern for us is supreme. His enthusiasm is tireless. His wisdom is unfathomable. And His authority is absolute. For these reasons—and dozens like them—it’s smart to regard every prayer we offer Him as its own unequalled opportunity. Does it seem odd to anyone else that we spend hours prepping to ask for a raise, yet we’re OK with praying on the fly?

What Do We Really Need?

Preparation isn’t about style or eloquence. Nothing in Scripture indicates fancy talk impresses God. “Without faith,” Hebrews 11.6 says, “it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” So before we pray, we should wrap our minds around two things. God is real, and He expects us to be real.

He’s not Santa Claus and prayer isn’t like hopping on his lap to ask for a shiny new toy. Before asking Him for anything, we ask ourselves, “What do we really need?” This is essential, because it determines exactly how we frame our prayer, which in turn affects how we feel about His answer. Why is that?

Staying in the Picture

Without preparation, we reduce prayer to two types of non-prayer: customer complaints and pipe dreams. We describe our needs and desires to God yet conveniently step out of the picture, asking Him to deal with everything and everyone but us. For instance: “Dear Lord, please help my parents accept that I’m gay.” But is that ours to ask? No, that’s their problem. If we think things through and stay in the picture, our prayer becomes: “Dear Lord, please help me love and accept my parents whether or not they accept me.”

If our prayers don’t produce desired results, we should revisit the conversation. Inevitably, we’ll see getting right answers depends on asking right questions. Thoughtful preparation refines the request. No longer is it “Fix it for me.” It’s “Fix me for it.” This is what James is telling us. A righteous attitude going into prayer produces powerful and effective results coming out.

Preparing before we pray dramatically impacts what happens after we pray.

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