We hold many misconceptions about prayer that skew our understanding of what God is doing. Misconceptions about prayer limit us. These misunderstandings are perhaps not articulated, but they are obvious in our approach to prayer and our expectations about prayer. The truth about prayer will free us to pray with the boldness God intends.
A common misconception about prayer is that prayer is the way we get things from God. Let’s explore this idea and search for the truth.
Does God tell us to ask Him for the material things we need? Yes, He does. Is it wrong to ask God for material things? No, God encourages it. However, this is not the primary purpose for which God ordained prayer. If your prayer life is limited to placing your orders with God and expecting Him to fulfill them in a timely manner, I imagine you have often been disappointed.
Prayer for material needs is presented by Jesus as the very simplest kind of prayer. This kind of prayer requires the least amount of spiritual energy. Jesus teaches, first of all, that your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Then He goes on to tell His followers that they do not have to worry about what to eat or what to wear. He points us to nature and the splendor with which the Father clothes the lilies of the field and the care with which He watches the birds of the air. He says, speaking of material things, “Your Father knows that you need them.” You do not have to convince Him of your need.
Not only does He know your need, He also cares about your need. You are more important to Him than the birds and the lilies. His provision for them is ample evidence that He will provide for you. You do not have to persevere and struggle in prayer for material needs. Since that’s the case, you can expend your spiritual energy seeking His kingdom and His righteousness, certain that your needs will be met.
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). To see the kingdom of God clearly, one must leave behind adult pretenses and sophisticated arguments. Often, we come to God prepared to do battle with Him, convince Him of the validity of our need and give Him reasons to meet it.
What a contrast to the way a little child comes to his or her parents. A child simply assumes that the need or desire is potent enough to speak for itself. All that is required is to bring that need to Mom or Dad’s attention. The request assumes the answer. The child’s only thought is to bring the need to the source of supply.
Look at the requests of those who knew Jesus well. Mary, Jesus’ mother, when confronted with a need, turned to Jesus and simply spoke the need to Him. She did not feel compelled to plead or cajole or convince. She did not know what Jesus would do, but she knew He would meet the need. “When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine’” (John 2:3). Simple faith in the character of Jesus moved the burden from Mary’s shoulders and set the stage for His power and provision.
You don’t need to build a theological case for why God should want to meet your need. He wants to meet your need because He’s your Daddy and you are the apple of His eye. Jesus highlights the simplicity of supplication by saying, “Ask and it will be given to you…For everyone who asks receives” (Matt. 7:7-8). The Greek word translated “ask” is used to ask for something to be given, not done. It is the simplest, most straight-forward picture of asking for something you need.
When a person seeks to use prayer as nothing more than a means of obtaining material things, that person will never discover the overwhelming and awe-inspiring power available through prayer. It is very simple for God to supply your material needs and He does so willingly.
Are you struggling in prayer? Are there areas in your life where you can simply rest your burden on His shoulders, then move on to seeing deeper intimacy with Him, confident in His care for you?