Do you need a cab? Ring the bell; the concierge lives to serve you. Not enough clean towels? Want your bed made twice a day? Need an extra chocolate on your pillow at bedtime? It’s easy-peasy: Pick up the phone and the management will be happy to attend to your every whim and impulse.
Does prayer really work this way? I don’t think so. Prayer is not a method for getting everything we want. Rather, it is the means by which we surrender to what God wants. It is an act of submission; the letting go of our will, to be shaped by God’s will.
Really, what good is prayer if it isn’t changing the one who prays? Because if prayer only feeds our narcissism and the human tendency to self-aggrandize our egos, I seriously doubt that God is doing very much listening. Why would he? If all we want is a change of circumstances, be it in regards to our health, finances, job, church, spouse or a hundred other things, we miss the point that God seems more interested in changing us, rather than changing our surroundings.
I love the image painted by the great Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones. He said, “Suppose you go fishing early one morning, and launch your little boat into the water. After a while, you are finished, and you wish to return home. What do you do?” He answers, “You throw a line to shore and begin to pull. Are you pulling the entire landmass to yourself, or are you being pulled to the shore?” The answer to his question is as enlightening as it is obvious.
Prayer is not pulling God to ourselves, to our will, or to our way of seeing and doing things. It is compliance to the will of God, as he pulls our lives in his direction. It is orienting our entire existence to his direction. It is submission, always.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.