Periodically, I get emails from readers of Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples. The most common question is “Will you pray for me?” But this morning, I got a different question about prayer. Jovita wrote to say she’s worried that she isn’t praying “right,” and she asked for guidance. Here’s what I wrote in response….
The only wrong way to pray is without humility and honesty. Those two components are essential to effective prayer. Without them, your prayers are offensive to God because they are a charade.
Here’s what I mean. Scripture says “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” A humble heart is an acknowledgement that you need God; you cannot succeed without Him. It’s an admission that you cannot force a heartbeat into the womb. You cannot force a birth mother to choose you to adopt her child. And, you cannot force God to respond to your agenda and your timetable.
Prayers without humility are often thinly-veiled attempts at arm-twisting, sweet-talking, or otherwise manipulating God. They are typically demanding, selfish and short-sighted. They are often prayers for instant gratification, rather than prayers of patient faith. Does that seem at all familiar? It was for me at the beginning of our infertility journey.
As for honest prayers, scripture makes clear that part of what God loved about David was his honesty. David voiced his hopes, his remorse, his grief, his anger, his fear… all of it without censorship to the God He loved and trusted. In response, God gave him a life beyond what he could have asked or imagined.
The same is true for us. God wants an intimate relationship with us based on complete honesty. He already knows our deepest thoughts, fears and hopes. When we voice them to Him in prayer, we are owning the truth of who we are, how we think, and what we feel — and asking Him to love us in the midst of all that. In spite of all that. Doing so risks trusting Him completely. And that delights and honors Him.
So, if you are praying with a humble heart and speaking the truth of what you feel, you’re praying the “right” way.
Beyond that, the most valuable, hard-earned wisdom I have gained about prayer is that telling God what I want and how I want it limits what He can do in my life. The most truthful and humble prayer I can pray — and consistently the most effective — is “Lord, Your will be done. I ask for Your best in this situation, whatever that may be, and I trust You to give it to me when the time is right.”
When I pray this way, I surrender (the illusion of) control. I defer my will to His wisdom and choose to trust His judgment completely. As a result, I begin to experience peace even before I know the answer.
Scripture says “the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective” and I am “made righteous by faith.” So, even if I don’t know when or how God will answer, I KNOW that He will. It may be in a different way than I ever could have imagined. Or, it may be just what I would’ve chosen. Either way, it will be God’s best for me.
In hindsight, that will become clearer… and clearer… and clearer.
It always does.
So, pour your heart out to God. Trust Him with the truth. Acknowledge your limitations, praise Him because He has none, and rejoice that He can do ANYTHING. Tell Him what’s weighing on your heart, ask Him to give you His best, let go, and allow Him to flood your heart with peace.
If you do, I can promise that — in His perfect timing — He will answer your prayers, to His glory.