Field of little bright flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

How do you pray and believe?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you would get everything you prayed for? Or would that be nice? Maybe that wouldn’t be good at all. How many of us have prayed for something and didn’t get it and a few years later understood why?

I’ve been there. I’ve gotten myself into a situation where I needed help and I prayed that God would deliver me, and for all intents and purposes it didn’t feel like He had. It didn’t feel like He did anything, like He didn’t even show up. I’ve also been in situations where I asked God for something, and He didn’t give it to me. And at the time, I was heart-broken. I was angry. I was disappointed. Maybe even a bit disillusioned. And in the emotion of the moment, I never wanted to ask Him for anything else again.

Field of little bright flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Field of little bright flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verses are Mark 11:22-24.

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.

I can totally understand people getting upset with this set of verses. I’ve been upset with it because it’s obviously not true, right? I have asked for things and believed whole-heartedly that I would get them, and then I never did. So how can Jesus get off saying something like this?

Honestly, I’m not sure any follower of Christ truly comprehends what prayer actually is or how powerful it actually is. I don’t think any of us can really appreciate what God does through prayer.  Maybe I’m generalizing. Maybe I should make it more personal. I don’t think I understand prayer.

I understand asking for things. I understand worshipping. I understand the ins and outs, the bits and pieces, the big picture of prayer. But how on earth can you ask God for something, truly and fully believing that you’ll get it, when you know deep down inside that you might not? That’s a paradox I don’t know if I can wrap my head around. How can you believe something but not believe it?

I don’t have all this figured out. I hope people know that. And I never write anything on this blog that I’m not struggling with personally. In fact, the posts that seem to be the most popular are the ones where I pretty much gut myself and lay everything out for the World Wide Web to see. And this topic is no exception.

I’ve asked for things, and I’ve believed that they’re going to happen. And they don’t. So I wait. And I wait. And I wait. And I wait. And still nothing. Maybe it’s on me. Maybe that means I’m not doing something right. Maybe that means I need to get up and do something else. But where is that line where you need to stop waiting and start doing?

I don’t know the answer to this one. I just know Jesus. I know who He is, and (being quite frank) that’s enough for me. And in the grand scheme of things, I’ve had more prayers answered than not. And if you think about it, I bet you have too, especially counting the prayers you didn’t know to pray. All I know for sure is that God is good, truly honestly really good. And that He never gives up on us and never abandons us; He never makes mistakes and He always keeps His promises. And if Jesus says He’ll answer any prayer, I believe Him.

Maybe that’s blind faith. I don’t think so because I know who Jesus is, so trusting Him isn’t that difficult. But what about things I’ve asked for that are outstanding? How can I believe that they’ll really happen when I don’t know?

This is what I’ve discovered. Praying specifically is always best. It helps us get our minds and perspectives straight. It’s not that God requires specificity, but it’s better for us. But what do you believe when you ask God for something? Do ask Him for that specific thing and then expect that He will deliver? Honestly, if that’s the way you do it, I think that goes back to the whole genie in the lamp concept, and that’s not who God is. Are we really so presumptuous to believe that we know what to ask for?

Yes, be specific. But believe that God is going to do what He wants before He does what you want. Why? Because He knows better. Yes, ask Him. Yes, make your requests. He wants to hear from you. He wants to talk to you. But we put so many restrictions on God in our prayers. We put Him in a box all the time. We ask for things that are so small, so selfish, so minor, and He wants to do things that are so much bigger than we can imagine through us. So make your little request, but don’t be surprised if God answers in a way you don’t expect. That’s who He is. He works so much higher than we do. He sees so much more than we do. And He has plans for us that exceed our wildest dreams.

It’s not that He’s not answering our prayers. He is. He’s just not doing it the way we want. And in the grand scheme of life and living, which would you prefer? Do you want God to answer your little prayers for your little life so you can go on living in a way that never makes a difference? Or would you rather enjoy the ride? Would you rather leave it up to Him? It’s a scarier option, to be sure, but I’d rather let Him drive.

How do you pray and believe? Make your requests, and believe that God is God and that He’ll do all He’s promised. But know it won’t look like what you think, and it’s far far better that way.