SOURCE: Jan Johnson
75% of Americans pray on some sort of regular basis. My guess is that most of their prayers are, “Help!” which is a very good thing to pray! My guess is that many of those “Help!” prayers are “suggestions” to God about how to “help” certain people—to get a job, to change their behavior, to do certain things. I used to do this—I think I presented God with entire outlines!
It’s surprising that Jesus didn’t pray that way when his best buddy-disciple was about to make one of the biggest mistakes of his life. Jesus warned Peter that he would deny him and then told him what he was praying—but he wasn’t praying that Peter wouldn’t do it! What?
Instead, he was praying that Peter’s faith wouldn’t fail. Why? “It would not have advanced Peter toward being the person he needed to become. . . . How earnestly Jesus longed for Peter to come out right in his time of testing! But he left him free to succeed or fail before God and humans.” Jesus was concerned about the person Peter was becoming. Jesus didn’t ask God to force Peter to do the right thing. After his failure, Peter’s faith didn’t fail as he made his way back to Jesus. His confidence in God did not fail although his brash self-confidence did.
Instead of praying to fix people, or patch them up, it’s wiser to seek God, to get on the same page as God. What does that mean? We have (and can have) the “mind of Christ. So we might ask God how to get the “mind of Christ” about a person or situation or problem. It’s better to ask God questions rather than try to give God what we think are the answers.
- What do I need to pray for this person?
- What larger issue is at stake?
- What do I need to know about this person or situation to be of any help?
- What do I need to say, or not say?
- What do I need to do, or not do?
This kind of prayer assumes that God will inform us and give us wisdom. It will probably not come in an immediate audible voice but in other ways, often through thoughts that would never occur to us on our own. Such thoughts just don’t sound anything like what we would say.
This kind of conversational interaction with God is possible. You might try it out—ask God a few questions and see what comes to you when you are quiet, what is said to you in an offhand comment by someone else. Then bring that back into conversation with God and talk about it.