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Are We Praying Wrong?

Vanessa Luu

Contributing Writer
Published Dec 28, 2023
Are We Praying Wrong?

Whether we realize it or not, our culture is obsessed with convenience and comfort, and it really hinders our walk with Jesus.

I think the problem with prayer amongst Christians today is that we pray for wholeness, solutions, no pain, no trials, no loss, and we forget that our hearts' desires must line up with God for them to be answered affirmatively. We believe God couldn't possibly want us sick, broken, or in pain, but I don't know why we believe that; beyond that, it's what the culture pushes on us.

Jesus promised trials on this earth, but to take heart because He has overcome the world. That speaks to an eternal perspective, not an earthly one. We long to be delivered from current inconveniences and discomfort, but Jesus taught and modeled contentment, peace, and submission to the Father through His discomforts and inconveniences.

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). What was it that Jesus had told them? He explained that they would each go their own way and that He was leaving them. Jesus assured them He'd be okay because the Father would be with Him, modeling contentment again. Jesus would not be lonely because He'd be with the Father, and we have that same truth to draw peace and strength.

Convenience and Comfort as Hindrances

Whether we realize it or not, our culture is obsessed with convenience and comfort, and it really hinders our walk with Jesus. I catch myself losing focus on the mission because I'm seeking ease or convenience, but Jesus didn't have any of the modern advances we have today and lived better than all of us. 

Jesus had all the reasons we do for being uncomfortable or inconvenienced. Think about how inconvenient it would feel to be stopped countless times and asked for something (like healing). Think of how uncomfortable it would be to sleep on the ground night after night and walk in sandals through the dirt. (Yuck, I can't even handle that at the beach, and yet Jesus did it daily!) Think about how uncomfortable it was to be harassed by religious leaders when you were there to help them! It would be annoying to travel in a group of twelve men with various personalities and temperaments, but Jesus did it, and He did it perfectly. Even though He was fully man, He was also fully God.

As Christians, we have a lot to live up to, and simultaneously, we have the knowledge that we will never live up to God's standards. For me, that is my biggest struggle. But will God dissolve my struggles just because I don't like how inconvenient they are? I'm going to say no. I've prayed for years for Him to fix me so that I could be more like Him and bring Him glory, and He doesn't, at least not in the way that I desire.

Abiding on the Vine

My thoughts are, Lord, if I was healthy and whole, I could do even more for the Kingdom; I wouldn't have so many hindrances slowing my pace. But I suspect that God knows if I were healthy and whole every day, I'd walk right away from Him because I wouldn't feel the need to be so tethered to the vine as I am right now.

I suspect you think along the same lines. You're waiting for God to deliver you from your fill-in-the-blank affliction so that you can serve Him and His Kingdom better. But God knows us better than we know ourselves, and I believe we will always have some type of struggle to keep us tethered to Him and on our knees in prayer.

Abiding on the vine is essential to grow your faith and relationship with God. We will not grow off the vine. Away from it, we will wither and die and be thrown on the fire, and I don't know about you, but that's not what I want for my life.

"Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love." John 15:5-9 NLT

I know we desire a life that thrives, and we should, but our prayers and actions are often focused on the here and now, the temporary, earthly things. 

I've struggled with prayer request circles for so long because I feel conflicted about praying for the person's requests. So often, people pray for a way out, healing, for a conflict to be resolved, and we shouldn't desire the opposite of that, but our focus is on us instead of on Him. Our focus is on making now better, and Jesus didn't model that, even when He taught His disciples to pray.

I raise this concern because our focus on making now better only hurts us and confuses us when the prayer requests aren't answered as we thought they would be. So what is the solution?

A Shift in Focus

My suggestion for this problem is not to quit praying but to shift our prayer focus to the eternal instead of the temporal. A prayer like that might sound like this: Lord, I don't like this ailment I have, and I would love you to deliver me from it, but instead, I'll ask for you to draw me closer to you, help me shine brighter in your love and grace so that more people can know you through the good or the bad in my life. Lord, help me not be distracted by this pain/discomfort but let it serve as a reminder to fix my eyes on you and praise you for who you are.

I believe many Christians "love God" because they believe He will make their life better, and don't get me wrong, He will make your life better. It just may not be in the way you imagined. Everything with God comes from the eternal perspective. The more we can lean into that in times of stress, doubt, fear, pain, sickness, etc., the more we'll learn and the closer we'll draw to Him.

In Christ, we have times of beauty, peace, health, and prosperity, but we can't live only for those times. I wish my best days on earth were every, and I tell that to God. 

I love it when my mind feels healthy and aligned with the Holy Spirit. I love beautiful days in nature when all my concerns vanish for a few hours. I love happy family times, laughter, good food, and friends, but I know Jesus promised ups and downs and that they are all for God's glory. (The ups are just way more pleasant than the downs.)

The Hope in Trying Times

Knowing that Christ overcame the world is the hope that I cling to in trying times, and it gives me the strength to persevere and put my trust in Him. Some people can be out in nature and not experience the beauty in front of their eyes, and those people are the ones who have been beaten down so hard from the trials of life and don't yet realize that there's a Savior that will carry them through those times, make them stronger, wiser, and eventually perfect in eternity.

Whether you follow Jesus or not, you will have trials and pain. No one can escape them, but if you have Jesus and rely on Him, growing in His ways, your trials will not shrink, but the beauty that God offers will expand, and your eyes will become wider. You will see and understand more, and with that comes its own set of trials, but the truth never changes. This promise allows us to remain hopeful for the day we spend eternity with our heavenly Father, Savior, and Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 12 tells us to strip off anything that weighs us down so that we can run the race God has set before us, and I believe one of the weights is ourselves. If we strip off our self-focus (to the best of our ability), it will undoubtedly change how we pray. The lighter we run this race, the more of God's power we'll see.

The more we lean into our discomforts, inconveniences, and pain and surrender those to the Lord, the more answered prayers we'll see in this life.

The rest of Hebrews 12 describes it the best. I encourage you to read it, pray with your eyes fixed on Jesus, and experience the joy of doing His will.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Deagreez

Vanessa Luu is a wife, mother, and faith-based writer. She speaks and writes to believers to encourage them to live authentically with God.