Yes, we believe in prayer.
We are also privately and secretly too certain that most prayer is too seldom answered. Of course, the word, “never” is so strong that we would not say it out loud. Many of us do not even say it to ourselves.
But there it is, lurking, underneath. The fear of yet more unanswered prayer.
No wonder so few of us are eager to pray! No wonder so many of us hesitate to pray. We have a terrible secret: it too often does no good.
Oh, we have reasons for this. Maybe God isn’t good. Maybe he’s mad at us. Some preachers act like he is. Full of judgement and anger, even. At sin. At how horrible we are. Even though we say otherwise in public, and often we say better than that to ourselves. Maybe we just do not understand his mysterious will nearly enough.
None of that is true. Yet it sure can seem that way!
And whenever we are suffering, our good answer to prayer seems to take too long.
I used to be like this. Then one day, it all changed for me.
I had been keeping track of prayers, so I would not forget. (I get distracted and forget far too easily and often. Including forgetting to pray powerfully for others. I need reminders.) Holy Spirit must have been guiding me, because I did it so well I made a tremendous and surprising discovery.
I used index cards. Kept track of who or what the prayer was for. When I started, and when I stopped. I prayed for three weeks, 21 days, unless asked to continue by another person or by God. I even kept track of what happened. I put Prayer Targets into writing.
Prayer Targets – visible results. Things noticeable. You can see what happened so well that it’s obvious what happened or changed and what did not.
These index cards helped me remember who to pray for, what to pray about. An enormous advantage that makes a difference.
Then it happened. I reviewed my prayer cards, the ones completed and finished. I made a discovery so unexpected, startling and amazing – that it literally transformed my prayer life.
Most of my prayers were answered. Most prayer targets were achieved. Nearly all of them! And quickly, too; even the speed was surprising. I was delighted. And I was surprised!
And I began to wonder how this could be. How is it that so many of my Prayer Targets were noticeably achieved and so quickly and I had somehow not noticed?
So I reviewed how I had prayed. And it slowly dawned on me: I was so concerned for the prayer targets that I was always praying and asking for something new. Something yet undone. Something important.
I was so focused so often on what was yet not accomplished and that seemed so important that I had never noticed how many Prayer Targets achieved – nearly all of them. With such good speed that, by hindsight, was amazing.
Please do this for yourself; discover and verify – most of your Prayer Targets are successful, and quickly. (And if not, find out the reason why! Good Prayer Target results are – dare I say it? Normal!
Big things like a new job or a new place to live would take – once I asked single-mindedly, about two days before the clue or hint came that led to success. Smaller things like headaches or personal problems with someone improved usually within two hours.
And I had never noticed. Not until I kept written records of Prayer Targets that could be noticed and observed.
I have habitually been focused on what’s needed and missing so many successes that I was not noticing or giving thanks for what God has already taken care of for others and for myself.
Not all Prayer Targets are quickly achieved. A small number of them drag on for a long, long time. I have come to suspect that the issue is often a lack of readiness to receive. When we are not ready, Prayer Target success take longer…until we are ready. Which is sometimes much longer than we realize or accept because we are so eager for good success.
Also important is single-minded faith, as described in the first chapter of James. When I or others are double minded, prayer success is not rapid. When double-minded, Prayer Targets are seldom achieved.
Strangely, it can take a year or two before single-mindedness occurs, especially for major changes. At least for me. I think it happens in this way. We are happy with a job or place we have; we were happy for the improvement. We’d asked for it, sought it out. We become comfortable with the way things are – even while we want yet more improvement. We are double minded and not and not yet really ready for change.
Oh! It’s the same issue!! We’re not ready. And when we are ready and single minded, when we ask for good things that God wills, it can then and most often does happen quickly.
God is good. Better than we think. Even better than many of us hope for much of the time. Better than we dare expect, even.
Prove and test this for yourself. Read the first chapter of James. It’s not long, but it sure makes a lot of points that we all need.
Choose noticeable Prayer Targets that allow you to rejoice with certainty when they are met. Do this in writing.
And discover for yourself, as I have – if I can do it you certainly can, too: most Prayer Targets are successfully achieved, and with wonderful speed.
God is good!