It’s kind of insulting. The book of James records Elijah was a person just like us. Poor Elijah. I like to think of God’s prophets as heroes. The truth is, he was just a man, like me. On the other side, if we’re that similar, and God used him so powerfully and specifically, how would He like to use me?
Over the past several months, I’ve been asking God to heal some people, while also asking Him to bring others to salvation. For the most part, all of these people are personal friends, so I have a deep interest in the outcome of my prayers.
I’m goal-oriented. In prayer, this means I understand and pray towards a specific end. If healing, I pray the person will be healed. That’s it. When I’m praying for my specific unsaved friends to come to depend on Christ for salvation, I pray only for that end.
I am also a planner and strategist. I love starting with a goal, then planning how to get from where I am to where I want to be. I do this goal-setting and strategizing with something as simple as entering and training for a marathon race. I follow the same pattern when planning the Sunday School class I teach, and in developing multi-year strategic plans for Mandate.
Praying for my friends, I began to see that I was drifting from goals to strategizing. Instead of just praying for salvation, I began praying a plan which would lead to salvation. Maybe my friends would meet someone, or hear a radio broadcast, or randomly pick up a Bible which would fall open to John 3:16. You get the picture.
I began doing the same thing in praying for healing. God, work through the doctors, or lead them to alternative healers, or just do a total mind-blowing miracle.
Then I realized Who I was talking to in prayer. I had gone from praying for specific goals to dictating methods. Who am I to be telling God how to work?! His mind is much better than mine. He knows the end from the beginning. And, in the end, I don’t really care how my friends find Christ or how others are healed. I just want those results.
Back to Elijah, whose story you can find in 1 Kings. As James records, Elijah simply prayed for a drought on Israel, and it happened. He simply prayed for rain to end that drought, and it happened. He did not pray the means, he prayed for a specific end. His requests are similar to many others throughout the Bible, including the well-known Lord’s Prayer.
My morning prayer times have changed. When I ask God to do something, I realize I can pray for the result, but have to leave the process to Him. I have to trust that He knows what He’s doing. I do believe I should pray for one specific end to each request, and I have to continue praying in that direction until God answers in some way or tells me to stop.
This new insight is interesting. I now spend more time praying for specific needs and am able to include more people in my prayers because I’m not following the rabbit trails of how I think God might answer, but leaving that totally in His capable hands, and I’ve now seen Him answer in specific ways that I would not have imagined.
God is doing the work. I am just praying the goal.
What goals are you praying towards?