Last night, while Jason and I were watching highlights of the Packers/Saints game in bed, an ad came on for a website called “Get Prayers Answered.” The man on the commercial said that if you were tired of praying without getting what you wanted, he had the solution, and simply directed viewers toward the website.
Since seeing that commercial, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about prayer. Lots of people pray. People pray to Jehovah and Allah and Buddha and the thousands of Hindu gods. People pray for safety and pass tests and for more money. People pray for all kinds of reasons in all kinds of situations. But when we talk about praying, we are almost always talking about requests we’re putting in to a higher power.
And the goal of these requests is that they’ll be approved and we get what we want.
No wonder advertising a secret formula to get your prayers answered would be successful.
But is that the point? Is that what having a relationship with God is all about – getting your prayers answered?
As I was pondering this last night, I turned where I always turn for answers to the deepest questions of my heart – God’s word. I read a lot about prayer, but I was drawn most to this prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane:
“Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'” Mark 14:35-36
What struck me about this was that Jesus, God’s son, didn’t get his prayer answered, at least not the “take this cup from me” part. So I can only assume that there will be times in my life where my prayers go unanswered also, or at least aren’t answered in the way that I want.
So I think the most important thing I can do, instead of seeking (or worse, offering) a way to get prayers answered, is to follow Jesus’ example and pray “not what I will, but what you will.”