So prayer is the breath of the soul, and too often I say instead of pray. Too often I say I’ll pray for someone or about something and then forget to do it. Does that mean God won’t answer prayer then? Is the intention enough? If He wants our good, then why should we bother to pray at all? Shouldn’t we just depend on Him to do what He wants to do best?
It all boils down to two things — politics and progress. To understand the politics of prayer, we have to skip back a few millennia and explore prehistoric Heaven. We’ll get to the progress next post.
Long ago in a galaxy far, far, away…the shining angel Lucifer was unparalleled in glory among the created beings of Heaven. Known as the “covering cherub” and installed amid the “stones of fire”, he was “perfect in his ways” until his “heart was lifted up because of [his] beauty” (Ezekiel 28:10). He became jealous of the praise and adulation rightly given to Jesus Christ, and began a whisper campaign against God. That ended in an attempted coup and the banishment of Lucifer and a third of the heavenly host (Revelation 12:7-9). He was bound to this earth, and we must know the rest — all sadness, wickedness, and everything evil comes from his continuing rebellion against the authority of God.
The politics of prayer come from Satan’s accusation that God is unfair. God allowed the tree in the Garden of Eden as a chance for Adam and Eve to make a choice. They chose to disobey. Through the rest of history, we all have this same choice. Job chose to obey, Judas to disobey, and so on to our day.
Prayer comes into it by God not giving us unfair advantage. That is, God cannot interfere in our lives unduly. Satan’s complaint in the book of Job gives us an example of his lawyering:
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 1:8-11).
God does allow Satan more-or-less free reign in Job’s life to the extent that he loses everything but his life (and his cranky wife), but still does not curse God. He eventually is blessed by God and gets back everything he lost.
All of this was to prove that God’s followers do not only follow Him because they receive benefits from doing so. Of course we do, but often it seems like those who follow God fare worse than those who ignore Him. It would not be fair if God was continuously interfering in the lives of His followers to help them out of trouble just because they had pledged to Him. Nepotism, cronyism; I’m sure we can think of other less-than-savory business practices that apply.
But there is this verse that says, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Sort of a blank check, really. Within reason, of course, but that is the verse that opens up the widest realms of possibilities when it comes to the blessings of God on those who pray.
Said a Christian writer,
“Our heavenly Father waits to bestow upon us the fullness of His blessing. It is our privilege to drink largely at the fountain of boundless love. What a wonder it is that we pray so little! God is ready and willing to hear the sincere prayer of the humblest of His children, and yet there is much manifest reluctance on our part to make known our wants to God. What can the angels of heaven think of poor helpless human beings, who are subject to temptation, when God’s heart of infinite love yearns toward them, ready to give them more than they can ask or think, and yet they pray so little and have so little faith?” (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, ch. 11).
I don’t know about you, but it sounds like God gives us as much as He fairly can, and then is waiting to pour out more if we ask! The same author, in another book, says,
Were not miracles wrought by Christ and His apostles? The same compassionate Savior lives today, and He is as willing to listen to the prayer of faith as when He walked visibly among men. The natural cooperates with the supernatural. It is a part of God’s plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not bestow, did we not thus ask (The Spirit of Prophecy, v. 4, p. 348).
Did you catch that? “It is a part of God’s plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not bestow, did we not thus ask.” Wow. That is amazing. A whole Heaven’s worth of blessings going wasted just because we don’t ask!
It’s kind of like what I tell my students when they complain I didn’t help them. “I will help you if you ask for it.” Now that’s usually coupled with “I’m not God; I can’t read your mind,” or another similar comment. God does know our minds, our hearts, and, most importantly, what is best for us, but we have to ask. “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).
I am resolved to ask more.