“Oh, I wish that God had not given me what I prayed for! It was not so good as I thought.” – Johanna Spyri
Johanna brings up a good point, for many of us hold strong misconceptions about prayer. One of my past misconceptions was the idea that if a prayer was not answered, that was a bad thing. I had the belief that, “I know what is best for me,” and therefore, if I ask for it then I really do want it. Unfortunately, we are not always the best at figuring out what is best for ourselves, even if we do like to think that what we want at the moment is, indeed, what is best for us.
The reality is that our wants tend to be fleeting, while our needs are much more consistent. When we are young, we want that guy or girl with a passion, and we will pray all night and all day for a date or for a relationship just because that is what we want. But is that person someone who will complement our own personalities? Are they someone who will be able to share a healthy relationship with us? Look around at the number of people who are in unhealthy relationships, and it becomes clear that the fact that we get what we want in a relationship does not mean that we are getting what we need.
When we pray, we can keep our prayer simple–if we pray that we get what is best for us, with the full knowledge that we are not sure what that is, then we can look at our prayer life with much more balance, with far fewer expectations. If we let go of the expectations that we have once we pray for what we want, then praying for what we need can help to free us to give our best to whatever we are doing as we patiently wait for the prayer to be answered, rather than spending time trying to force that prayer to be answered.
Our prayer life can be a valuable part of our lives if we strive to not let it become a wish list. As sometimes, what we wish for can turn into something that harms us greatly if we are not careful.
In any prayers this year, try to ask for what is best for you–what you need and not exactly what you want.
Questions to consider:
Have you ever prayed hard for something, only to get it and find out that you did not really want it?
How often do our wants and our needs correspond directly?
What does trying to decide by ourselves what is best for us say about our faith?
For further thought:
“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because He doesn’t answer
doesn’t mean that He don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
– Garth Brooks, Pat Alger and Larry B. Bastian