Wednesday, May 2, 2018

How to Pray So God Will Answer

Sometimes prayer is like texting someone who doesn’t text back. 

You start to wonder. If the silence goes on long enough you text again. Maybe you question your relationship or think his phone is dead.

I like the story of Samuel, in the Old Testament, because it happens in a place and time when God was definitely not texting back. 

1 Samuel 3:1 says, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread.”

Sounds like the 21st Century Western world—and the season of my life right now.

Despite this silence from God, however, people still brought their problems to him. People still prayed. I think that’s true today, too. I’m still at it as well.

The story goes that a childless woman named Hannah went to the temple at Shiloh to plead with God for a son. Hannah promised she would give this child right back to God to be a priest at the temple. 

I’m prone to bargaining with God in prayer sometimes. 

But I think this was different. This was more about offerings and sacrifices that people made back when that was the agreement with God to be right with him. They took the first of their livestock, and grain, and everything else, and gave it to the Lord. Hannah was promising something similar.

I need to understand this. I need to understand the attitude of this, and how it shows God how we think of him. It shows him our worship, our gratitude; our understanding of where everything we have actually comes from. 

And that’s when God answers prayers—especially then anyway—when our attitude is right toward him. 

Something else happened in this story as well. Hannah’s desire for a child aligned with God’s desire for a new prophet—someone through whom he could speak again. This sort of alignment is where God answers prayers in big ways. So Hannah got her son. And God got his prophet. 

I have had answers to prayers like this—Samuel moments. So I know it can happen. 

One random Wednesday afternoon about ten years ago I prayed that if it would be possible for us to move back to Colorado to be closer to my mom, who was having health issues, that God would make a way for that to happen. The next day my husband came home from work and announced that someone in Colorado had called him out of the blue to offer him a job. I literally fell to my knees.

But the problem with God being so big and obvious sometimes is that it makes the wandering-around-feeling-deserted times even more difficult.

I don’t like pleading with the Lord for things he doesn’t give—maybe can’t give. Sometimes, if I get told no often enough, or if his silence lasts long enough I finally turn to him and ask, “Did I do something wrong? Whatever it is, please forgive me. I need you close. Please come back to me.”

Instead, I should remember Hannah and consider not what God can do for me, but what I can do for God. 

How can what I want align with what God wants? How can I give him back whatever I’m asking him to give me? 

I think in the end that’s what God wants from us—a connection so close that we’re thinking alike. That’s when it becomes easy for God to answer our prayers—because what we want is also what he wants.

Rebecca Barnes is married to an amazing man, who encourages her faith and listens to her typing a lot. She has three daughters and a son-in-law. She loves to cook for anyone who likes good food, and she feels competitive about weeding her flower garden. She lives in Old Town Lafayette because it’s a little eclectic, like her.

1 comment:

  1. Rebecca,
    Hannah's story has always been one that makes me stop in amazement & wonder. How could someone pray for so long for a child, then at a very young age let go of that same child?
    Makes me wonder in what way I need to change my prayers to match what God desires for those whom I am praying for. I haven't had a "Hannah moment" for a long time.....could use one.