Sometimes we pray as if prayer is the means of cajoling God into releasing His carefully hoarded riches.
What makes prayer work the way God says it will work? How can we experience the power in prayer that Scripture promises?
“Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of God’s willingness.”(Martin Luther) God offers us His resources. He invites us to take His gifts. He does not have to be convinced to let go of His blessings. His Word says that He lavishes on us the riches of His grace (Eph. 1:8) and that He lavishes His love on us (1 John 3:1). He is extravagant in His gifts. He pours them out. He showers us with them. He doesn’t trickle them out or sprinkle them on us. Scripture never uses language that would portray God as stingy or hesitant to give. Instead we read that He “richly blesses all who call on him” (Rom. 10:12).
When we pray as if we are trying to wrestle goodness from God’s grasp, we expend spiritual energy needlessly trying to convince God of something of which He is already convinced. Giving you every good thing gives Him joy; it delights Him. Jesus assures us with these words: “‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom'” (Luke 12:32). He has set His heart on you.
In prayer we are cooperating with God. We are not working to try to persuade Him. God does not need to be cajoled into wanting the best for you and for the ones you love. Rather, we are yielding to Him, letting our hearts be pliable and moldable so that He can recreate His own desires in us.
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4). The word translated “delight” in this statement is a Hebrew word that means soft or pliable. To delight in the Lord means to be molded by Him. To be compliant to His desires. To be open and available to His transforming presence. When He has access to your malleable heart, He can shape it to match His. He can imprint His desires on your yielded heart. When you pray the desires of your heart, your prayer is the expression of His desires.
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). The primary focus of prayer is God’s heart. His heart’s desires are all for your benefit and for your good. He does not need to be convinced to love you and will the best for you. So turn your attention from trying to persuade Him and, instead, allow yourself to be persuaded by Him. Move from working to get Him to yield to your requests and, instead, yield your heart to Him. Allow Him to make your heart the repository of His desires.
Have you felt worn out by prayer because you feel you have to convince God? How would your sense of prayer’s effect change if you let Him shape your prayers?