What are you praying for?
As we close out 2015 and begin 2016, my friend’s blog post suggested we ask God some questions: “What prayers did You answer in this past year?” and “Are there any areas You want me to focus on in prayer this year?” (You can read her excellent post here.) As they were meant to do, those questions started me thinking….
What prayers did God answer last year? Did I make a note of His answers? Thinking back, I’m happy to say I can come up with a long list of answers. I can also make an equally long list of prayers I don’t know if He answered or not.
Of course, prayer is much more than giving God our wish lists. Do we really want to treat Him as we do Santa—try to be good (more or less) all year, especially at Christmas when we briefly sit on his lap and ask for goodies and then, after he delivers, ignore him until next year when we make a new list?
Prayer is primarily how we grow closer, how we hear His voice, and learn His heart. But God also tells us to ask for what we want. When we do, sometimes He says no. And sometimes—often!—He blesses our socks off!
This past year, most of my time and energy went into our move. I’ve written how we fixed up our aging home of 22 years, getting it onto the market (almost 2 months behind schedule). How we prayed for the right buyer, and how the house sold in seven days. Meanwhile, we made decisions on the house we were having built—fun but time-consuming. We packed and moved our stuff into storage, then stayed with some amazing friends, filling their basement with plants and even more boxes, not to mention us! Then our new house was done, and we moved in on the day that hail pounded the pavement (and our new roof) and a huge thunderstorm flooded the streets. Phew!
God was with us every step of the way—comforting my panic when I realized the painters had stained the front of our old house the wrong color (black), enveloping me in peace when we needed a quick sale at a decent price in order to close on our new house, sustaining me as I packed and packed and packed, then unpacked and unpacked and unpacked. We feel so blessed!
Of course, God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we want. Our daughter is still going through a divorce. Our granddaughter still broke her arm (falling off the highest slide in the playground). The world is still a fearful place, with so many deceived into hatred and violence, and so many more displaced and suffering. Millions of people still don’t know God loves them.
As I think back over my prayers from last year, I’m realizing that there are two kinds of prayer requests. In the first category are those for generalities—the bless me, bless them, please bring world peace kind of prayers. Some examples might be praying for wisdom for our leaders, praying that our kids will grow closer to God, praying that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven. These prayers are important, but it’s hard to know when or how God answers them. Would our leaders be less wise if we hadn’t prayed?
The other kind of prayer requests are specific—the “give us this day our daily bread” kind of prayers. We prayed for a friend being treated for cancer, and the most recent report came back cancer free. We asked God to provide enough money to pay our bills, and we’re still solvent. And on a recent birding trip, I asked God to please show my friends and I some of his amazing birds, and I came home with over a hundred photos of these adorable, rotund American Dippers—not all prayer requests have to be weighty!
We need these specific prayers so we can recognize the answers when they come. These are the faith-builders that encourage us to also pray for things we can’t see. God took delight in displaying his birds so we could enjoy and photograph them—He will also take delight in leading our children and grandchildren into His presence.
Last week we opened gifts, and hopefully wrote some thank you notes to the generous people who gave them to us. Why not take some time and compose a thank you note to God? Get specific. He appreciates our appreciation!
Happy New Year, everyone!