Prayer, pt 3: How to ask

[Part 3 of a four-part adaptation of my message, “Our Daily Bread.”]

There are many ways in which I could answer the question of “How do we ask for things in prayer?”, but I’m just going to say this:

Make basic, desperate requests of God with trust.

In our lives, in our conversations and talks with God, we bring the very basic matters of our lives but also the awareness that comes with desperation—we need God, we need a Savior, we need to be rescued from our own sin and selfishness and even our own tendency to think we can do it all on our own, we need to be connected to the One who is bigger than anything we might face. Jesus reminds us in John 15:5, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

I know some of us (myself included, on occasion) might be tempted to arch our eyebrows and say, “Not even a little bit?”

Nope: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

So make basic, desperate requests of God with trust.

A.J. Swoboda, a pastor in Portland, OR, writes:

To build muscles, people lift weights. To grow trust, Christians pray. Nothing else builds trust quite like facing all of your ongoing problems and unsolved struggles by getting down on your knees and not trying to fix them the way you would your gutters or broken refrigerators.

Yeah, I hate it too! 🙂 I mean, sometimes I hate asking in the first place because it means I’m admitting that I need something, and that’s just not fun. That’s humbling. But then admitting to God that I need something, bringing a problem to him and not immediately trying to fix it myself … that can be even harder!

Many of you know about my friend Ashley, who passed away a couple months ago. I’ve never had anyone this close to me pass away, and I’m going through the grieving process right now. And there is nothing I would like better than to fix this problem myself and get back to so-called normal functionality. But one of my friends gave me this advice, “You can’t fix this; don’t do anything. Just sit in it with God.”

Just sit in it?! Just tell me what to do to make things better!

But grief doesn’t work like that; you can’t just follow these five easy steps and heal yourself.

And life doesn’t work like that—there are so many things over which we have no control: what someone at work might say to you, how some random person on the street might be having a bad day and take it out on you, how your husband might mishear you, or how your wife might forget something you asked her to do; an experience that was inflicted upon you as a child or as a teenager or as a grown-up, that you still haven’t recovered from; a relationship or a marriage you fought hard to save but you were the only one who fought; the loss of a child or friend.

So in prayer, we bring our basic, desperate requests to God our Father—if there is anyone in the world we can trust, it is him. He is the One who cares for us more deeply and more furiously than anyone ever has or ever will. This is the God of the universe we’re talking to, who has invited us into a relationship of trust.

“Talk with me,” he says. “Listen to me. Walk with me. Spend time with me. Trust me.”

Later on in Matthew 6, Jesus says:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Jesus prays the prayer of the poorest of the poor, and he says, “Pray for the basic things. Pray for food, pray for shelter, pray for clothing. But trust that your heavenly Father will provide. Seek him, and he will give all these things to you. The most important thing is your relationship with God your Father, not all the things he gives you.”

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