God Listens to Reasonable Prayer
One day, I happened to see a very interesting story in my son’s weekly school magazine:
A little girl tripped up on an examination question: She answered that the capital of America was New York rather than Washington. So she prayed, and asked God to move the capital from Washington DC to New York.
After reading this story, I couldn’t help thinking that the girl’s behavior was ridiculous. Because of getting the examination question wrong, she prayed to God to move the capital of America to New York. Would God really listen to such an irrational prayer? At the same time, I realized there were the Lord’s good intentions in the things happening to us every day. That day, I came across this story, so what lesson did the Lord want me to learn? Through contemplating and seeking, it occurred to me that, in reality, many times I had prayed in the same way and unreasonably made demands of God, just like the little girl.
I remembered once when I was ill. In the beginning, I thought the Lord was testing my faith, and I should obey Him and not complain. But after a while, my stomach hurt so badly that I could hardly bear it. Then I began to pray to the Lord: “O Lord! You are the mighty God. You can make the blind see and make the lame walk. I beg You to heal my illness so that my stomach won’t ache anymore.”
Sometimes, when encountering some tribulations, such as the ridicule and slander of worldly people, relatives and friends, and the CCP’s persecution, I have prayed like this, “Lord! You know my weakness. Please sympathize with me because of my weakness and take away this suffering as quickly as possible.”
Moreover, when I was spreading the Lord’s gospel and gained many people, I unwittingly became quite proud. So I prayed like this, “Lord, I’ve believed in You for many years and gained many people, and I have sacrificed a lot and paid a hefty price. Please remember what I have done, and let me enter the kingdom of heaven in the future.”
And soon my eldest daughter is going to take the college entrance examination, but her academic grades aren’t very good. I’ve been worried a lot about her impending examination, and so I said to the Lord, “Lord, my daughter will take the college entrance examination; please help her and grant her wisdom and intelligence. You are the God who grants all pleas. I hope You bless her so that she can get into college.”
However, every time I prayed like this there was no enjoyment or confirmation in my heart. My spirit was hardly touched, and instead felt dull. I was greatly puzzled: Why did I have no spiritual enjoyment after I prayed? Did God not listen to my prayer? Until one day, I entered the gospel website as usual, and saw a few passages of God’s words: “There are some who do not even know how. Actually, to pray is mainly to say what is in your heart, as if you were speaking as you normally do. However, there are people who forget their place as soon as they begin to pray; they insist that God grant them something, heedless of whether it accords with His will, and, as a result, their prayers wither in the praying. When you pray, whatever it is you are asking for in your heart, whatever it is you long for; or, perhaps, there is an issue you wish to address, but into which you have no insight, and you are asking that God give you wisdom or strength, or that He enlighten you—whatever your request, you must be sensible in phrasing it. If you are not, and kneel down and say, ‘God, give me strength; let me see my nature; I beg You to work; I beg You for this and that; I beg You to make me such-and-such….’ That ‘beg’ of yours has a coercive quality; it is an attempt to put pressure on God, to compel Him to do what you want—whose terms you have unilaterally decided in advance, no less. As the Holy Spirit sees it, what effect could such a prayer have, when you have already set the terms and decided what you want to do? One should pray with a seeking, submissive heart. When something has befallen you, for instance, and you are not sure how to handle it, you might say, ‘God! I do not know what to do about this. I wish to satisfy You in this matter, and to seek Your will. May Your will be done. I wish only to do as You will, not as I will. You know that all human will is contrary to Yours, and resists You, and does not accord with the truth. I ask that You enlighten me, give me guidance in this matter, and let me not offend You….’ That is the appropriate tone for a prayer.”
“If all you do is constantly beg, then, no matter how much you say, it will all be hollow words; God will not work in response to your plea, because you will have decided what you want in advance. When you kneel in prayer, say this: ‘God! You know of man’s weakness, and You know man’s states. I ask that You enlighten me in this matter. Let me understand Your will. I wish only to submit to all You arrange; my heart is willing to obey You….’ Pray thus, and the Holy Spirit will move you. If the way you pray is not correct, your prayer will be stale, and the Holy Spirit will not move you.”
After reading God’s words, I felt quite ashamed. Comparing my everyday prayers to God’s words, I realized that they were indeed at odds with God’s intentions, and I had too many requirements for God. It showed that I asked God and tried to force God to do things according to my intentions, with no element of seeking God’s will. But God wouldn’t hear such prayers, nor would He work through me. Therefore, my prayers were dull and dry, and there was no peace or enjoyment in my heart. In the meantime, I realized that I hadn’t stood in my place in front of God, and while praying to the Lord, I hadn’t stood as a created being. Even less had I treated God as the one, true God. That’s why I was so arrogant and unreasonable when praying. At that time, I couldn’t help but think of an event that is recorded in the Bible: The mother of the two sons of Zebedee asked theto let her two sons sit—one at His right hand, and the other on the left—in His kingdom. Similarly, I also asked God to remember me like this and in the future let me enter the kingdom of heaven. When illness befell me, I asked God to heal my illness; I also demanded that God help my daughter enter college. There was no sense in my prayers.
I also thought of the Lord Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). I could see that when the Lord Jesus was to be nailed to the cross to take on the sins of humanity, He also felt much pain and distress. But He prayed quite rationally. He was willing to obey the arrangement of God, and He desired to act according to God the Father’s will and not according to His own. And I thought of Job’s prayer in the Bible: “Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” (Job 1:21). I saw that when faced with such great trials, although Job felt a little sad, he made no demands of God and he also submitted to God’s sovereignty and arrangement. What’s more, he gave praise and glory to God. From this I realized that Job knew his insignificance in front of God, and he had an obedient and godly attitude, so his prayer in front of God was very rational.
After realizing this, I also understood that only when we stand as created beings, and have a seeking, obedient and godly attitude can we pray rationally. Then I readjusted my attitude and sincerely prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, in the past, I didn’t know. I made too many demands of You and blindly asked You to satisfy my intentions. I was too unreasonable. From now on, I desire to entrust all things to You, especially my daughter. Whether she can pass the college entrance examination or not is in Your hands. I just wish to be a rational created being and submit to Your arrangements.” After praying, I felt very reassured and peaceful. It was not until then that I appreciated that only when we pray rationally can we feel peaceful and joyful.
God is the Creator, and we are created beings. So, we should have reverent hearts when coming to the presence of God to pray, and should pray reasonably as we stand in our positions as created beings. If we, before God, don’t have fearful hearts but make trouble out of nothing like the girl in the story, not only will God not listen to our prayers, but He will conceal Himself from and ignore us. I hope you now know a bit more about how to pray in a rational way.
Maybe you also like to read: Preacher’s Question: Laboring Cannot Enter the Kingdom of God?