This is the third part of a series on being more purposeful about deepening our relationship with God through prayer. The first part can be foundhere, and I recommend starting there.
It’s been a long road, but we’ve finally gotten to (perhaps) the most important topic, praying for our needs. I’m honestly not sure if it’s the most important, but it’s the place God can do the most work if we let him. We have control over how we respond to him, and it’s in prayer centered on the realities happening within us that can bring us to new places of conversion.
It’s ok to pray for good things for ourselves. Scripture often encourages it and Jesus even says to beseech God with a persistence bordering on annoyance (Lk 18:1-8). It’s good to take the time to ask for what we want, and even more good to take the time to think about why we want those things. What will change if we get them? Will we be brought closer or further from God? Will he be glorified? Will we learn to depend on him more or are we—without realizing it—trying to get God to give us what we think we need to be free of needing him?
Most of the time, we have no idea. We usually don’t know if things will help or hurt us in the long run. We ought to be careful here.
For example, from birth my eyesight has been lousy. I went through school without reading a chalk or white board, I have several driving restrictions, I use a monocular to watch most sports but usually, I have no idea what’s going on, and I’m sure there are other inconveniences I could complain about. I’ve offered plenty of prayers begging God to just fix my eyes.
So far the answer has been a firm “no”.
Would my life be more convenient with 20/20 vision? I bet it would. Would my soul be in better shape? Why would it be? What about good eyesight is inherently holy? Do I know for sure, without a doubt, that a miraculous healing of my eyes would be in my best interest? Of course not. I have no idea.
I pray for what I think I want but do my best to remember God’s perspective is much bigger than mine. If he doesn’t seem willing to give things to me, I need to give him space for that.
We can be sure of the goodness of some things, though. Virtue, for example, is always good for us. It’s a good idea to know the names of the virtues and what they mean so we can recognize where we’re weak. Praying for stuff is good, and praying for virtue is better.
Finally, after praying for blessings and praying for virtue, we can hope to pray sincerely for conversion. So often our prayers for ourselves aren’t actually about ourselves. When we pray for good weather we’re asking for a very big reality to be changed for our benefit. When we pray for peace in our hearts we’re often asking for stress and anxieties to go away magically.
If we’re honest, our prayers are rarely about changing us, they tend to focus on changing the world around us.
Conversion—turning toward God—on the other hand, is where God’s most incredible work happens. From praying to accept difficult situations to going out of our way to bless people who’ve hurt us, prayers for conversion can bring real change. If we’re ready and willing to let go of what we think makes us safe and happy, God will change our perspective to find him right where we are, in the midst of suffering, chaos, and a broken world.
Conversion lets us find God every day in every situation, not just when we think he’s given us enough good things.
Conversion is, at its core, a prayer asking God to reveal what he wants for us, what he wants us to be, and begging to become that person. It is “Thy will be done” in action.
If you and I need just one thing from God, how could it be anything other than this?
Prayer is a beautiful, varied, and fluid thing. It takes many forms and looks very different across the span of our lives. Whatever our situation or needs, I recommend getting in the habit of Praising God, asking for Reconciliation for our sins, praying for Another, and, finally, praying for Yourself (PRAY). The words may change, but my hope is that the formula will serve you well.