Monte Hunt – Worship Leader
We all have at least one: that friend whose name pops up on our buzzing phone, and when we see it we all think the same thing: “(sigh…) What do they want from me this time.”
Come on now! Don’t deny it. Some of you even give that person their own ringtone. I would advise against such action as said ringtone will now be ruined for you for life. Pavlov’s dog people. Pavlov’s dog.
And yet the reciprocal is true as well. None of us wants to be “that friend” to someone else, right? Sure, we all need to ask things of our friends from time to time, but if it’s all the time we may start hearing our friends’ voicemail messages more often than not. If this is the reality in our relationships with our friends, why would we expect our relationship with God to be any different?
One of my favorite comedies is Bruce Almighty. Jim Carry’s character Bruce has a run of bad luck, thinks God is ignoring him, and tells God he thinks he could do his job better than he. So God, played by Morgan Freeman (who else, right?) grants Bruce all his powers to see how he fairs. Watch this clip on Bruce handling the task of answering prayers.
It’s hilarious because it’s true. Most prayers are grounded in wanting or needing something from God. And many people pray only when they need something from him. But God doesn’t want us to be “that friend.” He doesn’t want your number for him to be 911. He doesn’t want to be your social worker. He want’s to be your neighbor.
You may be thinking, “The only way I know how to pray is to ask God for my wants and needs. What else is there to pray?”
To be clear: asking God for what we need, and even what we want is a good thing (Mt. 7:7-8; Ps 37:4). But God has given us a clear model of prayer to follow, and it is for both our benefit and his. Listen to the first part of a prayer given by Jesus:
“This, then, is how you should pray: ’Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.’” Mt. 6:9-11
You may have heard this prayer countless times, but notice the order of what he’s asking. The very first thing Jesus does is praise God the Father for who he is. Next, he asks for God’s will (desires) to be done. Then, he asks for his own needs to be met. This order is critical in understanding the relationship God wants to have with you, and his desire to grant you what you ask of him. God’s word tells us elsewhere that this order is the golden ticket to answered prayer.
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Ps 37:4
Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things (your needs) will be given to you as well. Mt. 6:33
Fortunately there is a very simple way to recall this order that God has given us to use. Remember the acronym ACTS as a roadmap for praying to God:
Adoration: tell God in your own words (or by using scripture) how awesome he is. Confession: talk to him about how you’ve messed up and ask for forgiveness. Thanksgiving: thank him for the good in your life. Even when you’re in a tough spot you can always find something for which to thank him. Supplication: ask him for what you need or want, whether it’s for yourself or someone else.
Now, here’s the key. Do not miss this: when we put God’s wants and desires in front of our own everybody wins. This is God’s perfect plan for every relationship we have (Phil 2:3-4) including the one we have with Him (Mt 6:33). Do not miss this either: God never asks us to do anything that he himself isn’t willing to do. Keep reading Philippians chapter 2 and you’ll see that this is true.
God’s way is always the right way, so live like he has shown us how to live, and pray like he has shown us how to pray: God’s will first, then our own. Do this and you’ll be astounded at how he starts answering your prayers.
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 Jn. 5:14-15