Different Christians have different ideas about what is or is not an appropriate prayer. One friend told me, “I only pray about major things, like the world situation or a terminal illness.” Other Christians pray for the weather to be sunny for a church picnic or for guidance in buying the right furniture for their house.
What’s the right approach? Are we being trivial when we pray for the sun to shine on a planned event or are we exhibiting a lack of faith in the power and love of God when we limit our prayers to major things because we believe God has more important things to deal with than the trivialities of our daily life?
I admit I’ve gone through the “don’t bother God with little things” stage and the “pray about everything” stage.
When I began my first job as a newspaper reporter, I got lost somewhere along a winding country road on my way to a scheduled interview with the woman who was to be the source of my first feature article. My cell phone was dead and there was no GPS to guide me to her house. I dreaded the thought of returning to the newspaper office and explaining to the publisher who had hired me a week earlier that I was unable to complete my first real assignment. I didn’t know if I had gone too far, or not far enough, or even if I was on the right road.
Envisioning my career as a journalist ruined by my incompetence and stupidity, I prayed, “Lord, let me find that house.”
And there it was in front of me, the driveway with the woman’s name emblazoned on the mailbox!
I breathed a sigh of relief, a prayer of thanks, interviewed the woman and wrote a feature story that was well-received by the publisher.
God helped me through that job a number of times over the years when my inexperience and lack of ability could have led to my being fired. Instead, I worked as a successful writer and editor. I prayed about everything, from the content of my stories to the people I was dating at the time.
Several years later, I went through the “don’t bother God with little things” stage. Floods, wars, drugs, people with cancer and other serious issues seemed to shrink my paltry prayer list to insignificance.
How could I bring my own feeble concerns to God when He had so many more important things to deal with?
But something about this approach didn’t seem quite right. God had answered so many of my trivial prayers that it must not have been wrong to pray them. By limiting the substance of my prayers to the “big things,” was I actually expressing doubt that a powerful, omniscience God would care enough to be involved in my day-to-day life?
I decided to look to Scripture for answers and this is what I found:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6,7)
In other words, we should bring all our concerns to God. Scripture indicates that prayer should be unceasing communication with God, not for the fulfillment of all our selfish desires, but as an expression of our faith and as a way of strengthening our relationship with Him.
When I left the newspaper job and moved to a different city, several friends from my former town kept in touch through letters and phone calls. I reciprocated and the friendship continued despite the distance between us. Other friendships fell by the wayside because of negligence on my part or theirs. There was little or no correspondence as we proceeded with our busy lives.
In the same way, our relationship with God flourishes if it’s nurtured through prayer. When neglected, it fades like those long-ago friendships that we valued once, then allowed to wither.
Praying about everything means that prayer has become such an integral part of every day that even when we aren’t kneeling in prayer we’re aware of God’s presence. Gradually, as the habit of prayer is cultivated and nurtured, we realize more and more that God is always there leading, guiding and directing us.
We need to pray alone, in prayer groups, without ceasing, not with bargains and time limits on God’s answers, but with the faith that God hears and responds.
The purpose of prayer, to put God at the center of our thoughts and establish a relationship with Him, is accomplished when we bring everything to Him in prayer.