In a previous post, I opined that we should stop praying meaningless phrases that have become habit.
If we want prayer to have its optimal effect in our life, we need to be thoughtful in what we say to and ask of GOD.
In this post, I want to look at two specific common prayer requests that GOD has already answered, yet we continue to pray them anyway.
Request #1: Be With Us
If you asked me what I believe to be the most common prayer request, I would tell you it's "Be with us, Lord."
I've heard this at least a hundred thousand times in my life, and I've prayed it at least ten thousand of those myself.
Jesus already answered this prayer.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matt. 28:16-20 NIV)
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
(John 14:15-24 NIV)
If you are in Jesus—if you keep His commands—the Father, Son and Spirit are each "with you" always, wherever you go.
So instead of praying for GOD to do what He has already said He will do and is doing, let's get busy thanking Him that He is "with us."
Request #2: Forgive Our Sins
A close second in the "most popular prayer request" category would have to be the all-encompassing "forgive us of our sins" request.
I realize that we need to be humble and contrite in spirit. I'm not negating this truth.
But if we are constantly praying for the forgiveness of our sins, we are either:
- Doing a whole bunch of evil all the time; or...
- Misunderstanding what grace is and how it works.
GOD has already spoken on what to do to have our sins forgiven.
If you aren't a Christian, you need to die with Jesus, so that you He can wash your past sins away.
If you are in Christ, then GOD has told you what to do as well:
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
(1 John 1:8-2:2 NIV)
Have you sinned, Christian?
Then confess it to GOD and ask forgiveness.
As I've written in "Confession and the Colossal Cop Out," praying some generic blanket prayer when you sin is not biblical confession and it's ineffective.
GOD expects us to be specific and admit what we've done and ask Him to forgive us of that thing.
Confession takes time and energy, and hopefully it'll make us think twice (or, even once might be an improvement!) before making the same mistake in the future.
I'm not saying it is sinful to ask for these things.
However, it takes more faith to believe that GOD will do what He has promised—even for me—than it does to keep asking.
It just seems to me that we should be exercising our faith by thanking Him for the answers He's already given.
These are just two examples. I'm sure there are plenty of others.
Can you think of any other common prayer requests that GOD has already answered?