How Can We Pray Rationally?
By Xin Ling
One day, I happened to see such an interesting story in my son’s Pupil Weekly:
A little girl tripped on an examination question. She answered the capital of America was New York rather than Washington. So she prayed, and asked God to move its capital from Washington DC to NewYork.
After reading this story, I couldn’t help thinking the girl’s absurd behavior was ridiculous. Because of missing the examination question, she prayed to God to remove the capital of America to New York according to her intention. How could God listen to such an irrational prayer? At the same time, I realized there were the Lord’s good intentions in the things happening to us every day. Today, I came upon this story, and what lesson did the Lord want me to learn? Through my contemplating and seeking, it occurred to me that, in reality, so many times I had prayed in this way and unreasonably made demands of God like the little girl.
I remembered once I was ill. In the beginning, I thought the Lord was testing my faith, and I should obey Him and not complain. But after a while, my stomach hurt so badly that I could hardly bear it. Then I began to pray to the Lord: “O Lord! You are the mighty God. You can let the blind see and let the lame walk. I beg You to heal my illness so that my stomach won’t ache anymore.”
Sometimes encountering some tribulations, such as the ridicule and slander of worldly people, relatives and friends, and the CCP’s persecution, I prayed, “Lord! You know my weakness. Please sympathize with my weakness and take away this suffering as quickly as possible.”
Moreover, when I spread the Lord’s gospel and gained many people, I became proud unwittingly. Then I prayed, “Lord, I’ve believed in You for many years and gained many people, and moreover, I have sacrificed a lot and paid many prices. Please remember what I have done, and let me enter the kingdom of heaven in the future.”
Especially nowadays, my eldest daughter is going to take the college entrance examination, but her academic grades aren’t very good. I worried a lot about her impending examination, and then I said to the Lord, “Lord, my daughter will take the college entrance examination; please help her and grant her with wisdom and intelligence. You are the God who grants all pleas. I hope You bless her so that she can get into college.”
However, every time I prayed like this, there was no enjoyment or confirmation in my heart. My spirit was hardly touched, but instead felt dull. I was greatly puzzled: Why did I have no spiritual enjoyment after I prayed? Did God not listen to my prayer? Until one day, I entered the gospel website as usual, and saw a few passages of God’s words: “And some of you even don’t know how to pray; in fact, prayer is mainly about speaking what is in your heart, just like a normal conversation. However, some people take the wrong position when they pray, and regardless of whether it conforms with God’s will or not, they demand God to bestow what they ask for upon them. As a result, the more they pray the duller it becomes. When praying, whatever your heart asks for, desires, and requests, or when you wish to take care of some matters that you don’t fully understand you ask God for wisdom, strength, or enlightenment, you must be reasonable in the way you speak. If you are unreasonable, and you kneel and say: ‘God, give me power and let me see my nature; I ask You to do it. Or, I ask You to give me this or that, I ask You to let me be like this or like that,’ this word ‘ask’ carries an element of force, and is like exerting pressure on God to make Him do it. Moreover, you predetermine your own matters. Even though you pray this way, the Holy Spirit sees it as: Since you have already predetermined it yourself, and you want to do it that way, what will be the outcome of this kind of prayer? You should seek and submit in your prayers; for example, if a matter came upon you that you didn’t know how to handle, then you say: ‘Oh God! This matter has come upon me, and I don’t know how to handle it. I am willing to satisfy You in this matter, I am willing to seek You, I desire for Your will to come to pass, I desire to do according to Your intentions, and not according to my own. You know that the intentions of man are in violation of Your will; they resist You and do not conform with truth. I only desire to do according to Your intentions. I ask You to enlighten me and guide me in this matter, so that I won’t offend You….’ This kind of tone of voice in prayer is appropriate.
“If you merely are persistent in asking and asking, then when you have finished asking it will be nothing more than a bunch of empty words, because you have already predetermined your intentions. When you kneel to pray, you should say something like: ‘Oh God! You know my weaknesses and You know my conditions. I ask You to enlighten me in this matter and let me understand Your will. I only desire to submit to all of Your arrangements and my heart desires to submit to You….’ If you pray like this, then the Holy Spirit will move you and if the direction of your prayer is not right, then it will become dull and dry, and the Holy Spirit will not move you….
“When you come to the presence of God to pray, you must think about how to speak reasonably and think about what to say to be able to turn your inner condition into piety. Humble yourself, then say a prayer and you will be anointed.”
After reading God’s words, I felt quite ashamed. Comparing my everyday prayers to God’s words, I realized that they were at odds with God’s intentions indeed, and I had too many requirements for God. That showed I, with no element of seeking God’s will, asked God and forced God to do things according to my intentions. God wouldn’t hear such prayers, nor would He work through me. Therefore, my prayers were dull and dry, and there was no peace or enjoyment in my heart. In the meantime, I realized that I didn’t stand in my place in front of God, and while praying to the Lord, I didn’t stand as a created being. Even less did I treat God as God. Thus I was so arrogant and unreasonable when praying. At that time, I couldn’t help but think it was recorded in the Bible: The mother of two sons of Zebedee asked the Lord Jesus to let her two sons sit, one on His right hand, and the other on the left, in His kingdom. Similarly, I also asked God to remember me like this, and in the future let me enter the kingdom of heaven; when illness befell me, I asked God to heal my illness; I also demanded that God let my daughter enter the college. There was no sense in my prayers.
I also thought of the Lord Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). I could see that when the Lord Jesus was to be nailed to the cross to take on the sins of us humanity, He also felt painful and distressed. But He prayed quite reasonably. He was willing to obey the arrangement of God, and He desired to do according to God the Father’s will, but not according to His own. And I thought of Job’s prayer recorded in the Bible: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). I saw that, facing such great trials, although Job felt a little sad, yet he made no demands of God, and he also submitted to God’s sovereignty and arrangement. What’s more, he gave praise and glory to God. From this I could see that Job knew his insignificance in front of God, and he had an obedient and godly attitude, so his prayer in front of God was very reasonable.
Having known this, I also understood only when we stand as a created being, and have a seeking, obedient and godly attitude can we pray rationally. Then I readjusted my attitude and sincerely prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, in the past, I didn’t know how to pray. I made too many demands of You and blindly asked You to satisfy my intentions. I was too unreasonable. From now on, I desire to entrust all things to You, especially my daughter. Whether she can pass the college entrance examination or not is in Your hands. I just wish to be an intellective created being and submit to Your arrangement.” After praying, I felt very assured and peaceful. It was not until then that I appreciated that only when we prayed rationally could we feel peaceful and joyful.
God is the Creator, and we are created beings. So, we should have a reverent heart when coming to the presence of God to pray, and pray reasonably standing in the place of a created being. If we, before God, don’t have fearful hearts, but make trouble out of nothing like the girl in the story, not only will God not listen to our prayers, but He will conceal Himself from and ignore us. Now do you know something about how to reasonably pray?
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