I’ve lost track of how many times people have asked me to put forth special requests to God.
Sometimes, I am humbled, honored and blessed to be entrusted with your concerns while other times I want to roll my eyes and ask “Do you really expect me to pray for that?!”
I am always willing to take time to pray for people, but I’ve learned to be careful and considerate with my prayers.
Sometimes, when asked to pray, I am taken aback and want to either giggle or groan, depending on my mood and the request.
For example: I might groan if you ask me to pray for a really hot, sunny day (mainly because I think anything over 75 degrees is unfit for humans and consider such prayers to be ridiculous). I might laugh if you ask me to not pray for snow, even though you live in North Dakota and it’s December (partly because I happen to like snow and cold weather and why would I ever agree to pray against something I enjoy?).
But I will faithfully pray that God sends the weather that we need and to watch over those who are out in the elements.
I draw the line with some prayers. We all have our limits, and even as a pastor I occasionally hesitate to ask God for some things.
I won’t pray for a sports team to win. I will pray for safety of players.
I won’t pray for you to win the lottery. I will pray that God will work through others to help you.
I won’t pray for the things that I believe are wants or desires. I will pray that God sees your need and gives you what you need.
I will not pray for what appears to be self-serving, but I will pray that God watches over all of us in all aspects of our daily lives.
So here is a word of advice: be careful what you pray for.
When we pray, we better be ready for the prayer to be answered (whether the answer is yes or no). Praying for a snow day because you want a day off might be answered with clear skies.
When we pray, we better be paying attention to exactly what it is that we pray for. Praying for health may not mean that a miracle cure happens or the physical ailment is “fixed” when health might be the emotional or spiritual acceptance of our own mortality.
When we pray, we better be ready to change. Praying for something and not receiving it could lead us to turning away from God (as we claim that since the prayer wasn’t answered how we wanted means God doesn’t listen) or else teaching us patience and trust that God provides, even if we don’t get what we want when we want it.
Whatever the prayer, I use honesty and caution.
Honesty because prayer is the time when we can share our deepest concerns and wishes with God, knowing that God sees into our hearts and knows when we are trying to hide.
Caution because God is paying attention, and sometimes we know what we ought to be praying for even if we don’t want to pay attention to what we feel deep in our hearts/guts should be our prayer.
After all, prayers are powerful and life-changing.