Prayer is the voice of faith that the Holy Spirit works in our heart. Prayer begins with God and His Word. We listen to Him and then respond in prayer. So, we don’t come to God with our agenda—our list of things we want. Rather, we begin with His Word and promises, and our prayers flow out of those things.
The Lord’s Prayer well illustrates this. Only in one petition do we ask for material blessings as we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” God is concerned about our physical well-being, but we put too much emphasis on it. Consider Lazarus (Luke 16:19ff.) who seemingly was forgotten by God in this world. But he is kept in the faith so that when he dies, he is “carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.” So, as we pray for those who are sick, our primary concern is for their spiritual needs not physical, though we may ask for physical blessings as well. We want them to be sustained in their faith, because we don’t know what God’s will is for their lives and future.
Thus, surrounding the petition for daily bread, we have a whole host of spiritual concerns—focusing on God’s name, His kingdom, His will, forgiving others, being concerned about temptation, and being delivered from evil. In our prayers for others, we are reminded of the spiritual over and above their physical concerns. They need this help, because sadly, we may see those who are afflicted with earthly troubles fall away. When God doesn’t do what we want or expect, we are tempted to doubt Him. But prayer isn’t about changing God, it involves bending our will to His will.
Thankfully, as we consider our prayers, we should realize that our access to God is based on the merits of Jesus Christ. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Our righteousness is in Christ. He paid for our sins. He cleanses us in the waters of Holy Baptism. We are adopted into His family. He calls us brothers and sisters in Christ. Thus, we can rightly address God as “our Father” and because of this relationship, God hears and answers our prayers. His answer may be “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” But He has promised to hear all who call on Him in Jesus’ name.
Mark Maunula is pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Isle.