A Kingdom Perspective on Prayer Requests
We’ve all been guilty of it: Treating God like a slot machine or a genie. We turn to him only in order to determine what we can get from him. The Bible makes clear that we are to cast our cares before God, that he knows what we needs before we ask, and we should ask in faith, believing that we have what we have requested. And yet, it is still possible to pray selfish, negotiating prayers to God that border on manipulation. Other prayers seem trite or possibly even petty. Others still are just odd or even funny.
We must beware of pragmatic, self-centered prayers. Biblical prayer is not magic that manipulates God, nor is it “the law of attraction” that deals with impersonal forces, drawing to us those “positive energies” that we send out into the world.
Most of us intuitively know that this is not the way we should come to God in prayer. But if God knows us better than we know ourselves, then he also know the deepest desires of our hearts. He knows it all, and therefore these desires should be included in the way we pray to him.
Sure, we recognize that there is a bad, sinful, selfish way to ask this question, and in our darker moments we run the danger of sinking back into approaching God like that cosmic genie or slot machine. But there is likewise a sincere, pious, and God-centered way of coming to God with our requests. Does the Bible provide us with a way of speaking to God about the things we want?
Thankfully, the answer is yes. Remember the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father who is in heaven…” When we speak about prayers of request, we are talking about petitioning our royal Heavenly Father with our desires.
Scripture teaches not only that God is the sovereign king, but also that he is a loving and involved Father. And like all loving and involved Fathers, sometimes he will deny requests and petitions that in his greater wisdom and knowledge he knows aren’t good for his children. There may be a number of reasons why God may say no to our requests. God may deny our requests when…
- we are fostering sin in our lives
- saying yes would bring us harm we don’t foresee
- he has something far greater in store for us
- we pray at cross purposes with other believers
- we pray for things where a yes” is impossible
- we pray for things that are already determined.
Ultimately our greatest desire and prayer to God should be “your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Kingdom is God’s grand cosmic plan for his creation; it is his will. And when we pray for this (i.e. that his kingdom would come on earth and be recognized here as it is in the heavens) we’re aligning our desires with his purposes. As John wrote, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 Jn. 5:14). When our prayers are not self-centered, and our requests are not made merely to waste on the disordered loves of our heart, we can have rock-solid assurance that God hears them with approval. Kingdom-focused prayers should be offered in faith, without doubting, ‘for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8).
Our narrow perspectives often cloud us from seeing things from God’s perspective, and that is why we need to have a long-term view of our lives. A “no” from God now, may produce generations and generations of blessing down the line.