The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
An elderly Christian minister was asked what he would do differently if he had his life to live over. He replied, “I would study more and pray less.” He wasn’t downplaying prayer. He was advocating the careful study of God’s Word—a discipline that filters our prayers.
Sometimes we make unnecessary requests of God. Although he knows our hearts and understands our prayers even when we miss the mark, it would certainly please the Lord if our prayers more accurately reflected his promises to us. Here are a few examples.
We sometimes pray, “God, please be with us” when he has already promised to be with us and never to leave us. “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
Perhaps instead we should pray, “Lord, I know you’ve promised to be with me and never to leave me. But right now I feel alone and uncertain. Help me to be more keenly aware of your presence.”
At times we ask God to help us live holy lives, forgetting that such help has already been given. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness”
(2 Peter 1:3).
Perhaps instead we should pray, “Lord, please help me avail myself of the power you have given me for life and godliness.”
We ask for a way out when facing temptation, when a way out has already been provided. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Perhaps instead we should pray, “Father, I know you will provide (or have provided) a way out of the temptation I’m facing. Please give me wisdom to see the way out and strength to walk in it.”
How often do we ask God to forgive our sins when all the while we live under the umbrella of his grace? “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Romans 5:1, 2). “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). (This is not to say we can’t fall from grace. For a more detailed examination of this principle, see Dr. Jack Cottrell’s excellent essay, “What I Have Learned in 50 Years as a Theologian [Part 2]” in the May 30, 2010 issue of Christian Standard.)
Perhaps instead we should pray, “Thank you, Father, that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for my transgressions. I know I’m covered by your grace, but I feel terrible that I failed you. I apologize for my disobedience. With the help of your Holy Spirit, I am turning away from this sin forever.”
Prayer is one of the great privileges of the Christian life. Let’s pray often, accurately, and with a firm faith.