It was pretty revolutionary. One night a few years back we were taking prayer requests at Awana, and I thought, “Why don’t I ask God what to pray?” I could see if He included any instructions in the Bible on what to pray for. I could also ask God to let me know.
When I studied the Bible for insights into prayer – specifically for instructions on what to pray – I discovered that God expected His people to know what He wanted them to pray.
James holds up Elijah as an example to us of prayer. He was a man, just like we are men and women, but he prayed and God answered, even though his prayers were for incredible things. When I read the story James referenced, I saw that Elijah was a prophet, to whom the word of the LORD came regarding the famine. 1 Kings doesn’t even say that Elijah prayed, but that the famine would stay or go at his word!
John testifies that if we pray according to God’s will, we can have confidence that He hears us and that we have whatever we have asked. I’m incredibly discontent with the interpretation that if in our prayers we happen to stumble upon what God wanted to do anyway, we can have confidence that God heard our prayers in doing it. No. I believe we can know, in at least some cases, what God’s will is, and pray for Him to bring it about. It is in these prayers that we can have confidence.
Again and again I see the promise that we will receive what we pray. Jesus says that if we pray in His name, we’re assured that God will do it. That these prayers will yield fruit.
Now – I don’t refuse to talk to God until I know what He wants me to ask. There are different kinds of prayer. I like to talk to Him. I tell Him what I’m thinking and feeling and confused about and having a hard time with. I lay my desires before Him. I ask Him to use my prayers, and to guide my prayers. And He doesn’t always tell me right away what to pray. I suspect He wants me to keep seeking Him.
Prayer changes me. It humbles me to come to God and confess that I need Him. I need Him even to help me to pray. I can’t demand of Him when He will reveal His will, or what that will shall be. I get to offer to Him my own preferences and requests and surrender them to be changed, if they are not aligned with His will.
At first I was just experimenting with a bright idea, asking God to tell me what to pray. However, it’s become something that is shaping my life, enlightening my understanding of God’s relationship with His people. It’s not something I’m just trying out or wondering; I’ve experienced it, and I believe that God has ordained for prayer to function this way.
To God be all glory.