One afternoon when I was a youth group leader a few years back, a group of teenagers and I sat cross-legged on the church lawn, soaking in the warm summer sunshine. We’d just taken a break from a rigorous game to sip something cold and visit. One of the girls had recently returned from a mission trip in a developing nation and I couldn’t wait to hear about her experience.
“So, Renee, tell us about your trip.” I inquired. “What is the one thing you think you will remember the most?”
I imagined her answer would have something to do with a child who captured her heart with a sweet smile. Or a church service she attended that was so very different from ours. Neither of these guesses was right.
“Oh, that’s easy. I will always remember it was on this trip when I learned how easy it is in our culture to answer our own prayers.”
Her statement stunned me for a moment. I wondered, “What in the world did she mean by that? Answer our own prayers? Only God answers prayer, right?” But before I could pipe up and ask her to explain further, she continued.
“You see, here in America, we bow our heads and say grace and ask God to ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ And then? We hop in our cars, run down to the grocery store, and buy a loaf or two. We ask Him to keep us safe and warm. Then parents buy their kids the best car seats available, and we crank up the furnace whenever we feel chilly. It is so easy in our culture to provide the answer to our own prayers. But the people I met on the trip? They pray God will give them their daily bread, not knowing if they will have enough food to feed their families that night. Their prayers are bold. They ask God for things they can’t always provide for themselves.”
I had never thought of this concept before, and it caused me to think about three goals.
First, I want to use my abundance to help answer someone else’s prayers. To share the financial means I have been given with others.
Second, I need to learn to pray bold prayers, asking God for the things that only He can bring about. That is if they are in accordance with His will. To pray for requests in my life beyond the “Lord, keep us safe and warm and well-fed. Amen.” routine we can often fall into.
And finally, I want our kids to be challenged to adopt a lifestyle that seeks to help others less fortunate than they are. I pray that our offspring will experience how crucial and Christlike it is to reach out. To give. To serve. To share. To encourage. And—ultimately—to bless.
Luke 11:1 gives me hope that I’m not alone in thinking my prayer life could use a makeover. It reminds us that even the disciples wanted help learning how to pray. They saw Jesus praying and desired to follow His example.
“He was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.’” Luke 11:1 (CSB)
Dare to Ask
Additionally, Ephesians 3:20-21 tells us God can do things we can’t even dream of. Even provide answers to questions that we often hesitate to even ask. This suggests we can be daring when we pray, asking God for great things done only in His great strength.
My little chat with this spiritually sensitive teen changed me. I began to work into my prayers, not only requests that God would help me be attentive to those who need my help, but also that He would help me make bold requests I can’t possibly answer myself. And then, that I would stand back and — in faith — watch Him work, taking our whole family along for the ride.
How about you? Is your prayer list full of items you can cross off yourself? Perhaps it’s time you, too, began to ask, “Lord, teach me to pray.”
Father, teach our family to pray more boldly. May we be both generous in giving and faith-filled in my prayers. Help us to pray more confident prayers that can’t be answered on our own and can only happen through Your power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.