I don’t understand prayer. I don’t understand much of anything about God. But I guess I figured out something about prayer the other day. For most of my life, prayer never made much sense. Why would God act in response to our requests? Doesn’t He know what’s best? Shouldn’t we just pray for Him to do good stuff? If yes, then is that even a real prayer? “Hi God, keep up the good work. Amen”
But the other day, a good thing happened to me. It was the kind of thing you hope will work out for a long time, and you work toward it over days and weeks and months and years. All along there is no certainty that it will, in fact, work out. During all those days and years, there were sputtering starts and disheartening setbacks. And in spite of my skepticism about prayer, I often prayed that things would work out both in the way God wanted them to…and the way I wanted them to. Sometimes I prayed that our two desires would simply collude, and that the outcome would be His desire…and I’d end up happy and fulfilled. I’m a tricky guy that way.
To my delight, and no little surprise, a big portion of what I had hoped for actually came to be. Perhaps I had suceeded in aligning my desires with God’s. More likely, God had aquiesced. But whatever. I can’t spend much time divining the inner-workings of Heavenly logic.
What I realized about prayer is that, in this case inadvertantly, I had spent many long hours (in aggregate) praying for both commonality with God’s will, and for an outcome that reflected my own heart’s desire. When events finally unfolded in a favorable way, it was nice to get what I wanted, but more importantly I felt that I had been working on something with God. In other words, I had a newfound vested interest in the outcome. It was like getting to go to the super-bowl party, not because I ardently desired Team A to win, but because I had brought a few guys water during the game. Prayer invests us in God’s whimsy.