Rev. Dr. Billy Burch
An Attitude in Prayer
Have you ever felt a certain pang upon waking up in the early hours of the morning, having heard your alarm sound off? I’m not talking about the pang from your alarm sounding more like a nuclear fallout siren than birds tweeting. That’s every morning. I’m talking about that peculiar feeling that says to your mind, “Something’s not right.” That was me two days ago. And it wasn’t that some big event or deadline or ill-willed person was about to make my life miserable, rather a conglomeration of little things packed stress into my inner being in a way that shouldn’t be allowed. Sort of like canned salmon.
I know what I should do. I should pray and ponder and make plans and take action. And I should— give thanks. But there are times I find that too hard. I sometimes envy people who, immediately following a difficulty of some sort, can say to the Creator and King, “Thank you for bringing this extremely difficult and impossible thing into my life. Praise God!” I also think they might come from some place deep in an unknown forest. I should go visit.
So, what I did do was— complain to God. Yeah, that will fix it. Let me take my prayer time and use it in such a way that I feel worse afterwards than when I started. That is always a great idea! But, at just about the time I was finishing my prayer time (I called it that to make myself feel better), God seemed to be asking, “What exactly do you want?” Hmmm… Good question… No, really. Good questions make you stop and think. And sometimes that is just what is needed to change course. So I answered that simple question, which actually became my prayer time.
And it started like this. “OK, God. I will do that. I want four things today. I would love to see these four things happen, even though they might seem petty and small to some people. They are very important to me. You see, God, a few things have kind of gotten me in a bad place. And I could really use a sign that you are watching over me and attending to me. So here they are.”
By 1:00 every one of those requests were answered. Without going into details, as we all have elephant sized prayers and one-celled prayers, God takes it all in. Prayers are all alive and real to Him. They all matter to Him because you matter to Him. Here is what I learned, and it might not be what you think. I spouted out those four prayer requests while still somewhat irritable. I threw them out there and then went on with my day. And when God answered all of them, I was surprised. I think my next prayer when I realized what had happened over the last few hours was, “Wow, God. Thank you.” I stepped back and realized my lesson in this— I was not living with expectation. God is always working, so it only follows that we should live in expectation that our prayers are being worked on by God. You’ll see.
I am reminded of the simplicity of prayer from what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
That’s all there is to it. If God tells us to do these two simple things (tell Him what you need and thank Him for what He has done), He is basically saying, “Ask and live in expectation, because when you see my hand, you will give to Me ‘thanks.’”