“What does God want me to pray for?”

Or, Why God seems to answer saintly people’s prayers more than mine

iStock 000003018263XSmall What does God want me to pray for?“How is it that saintly people always seem to get their prayers answered?” a friend asked a while back.

She knew a family that needed tens of thousands of dollars to save their house from going into foreclosure. Though none of their efforts to get the money together had borne any fruit, the wife, a very Spirit-filled person, remained unflustered. She was certain that the Lord would save their house. And then, at the last minute, an anonymous stepped in and gave them all the money they needed.

I was equally baffled. We traded tales of some of the other amazing answered prayer stories: like how George Mueller once ran out of food at his orphanage, but he sat down at the table with a knife and fork anyway, certain that the Lord would provide…and an unexpected truck full of food pulled up outside. Or the time Mother Angelica needed $600,000 for a satellite dish that had just been delivered to her door (a summary wouldn’t do that amazing story justice — read the whole thing here, under the section Mother Angelica and the Satellite Dish, just before the ad in the middle of the article). Or the story I heard on Relevant Radio about how some folks went around to bring food and gifts to the needy one Christmas. They made an unplanned visit to one woman’s home, and she actually had tea ready for them — she’d prayed for God to send someone, and had been that certain that he would.

“So how does that work?” I mused aloud. (Though the real thought that flashed through my mind was, “I need to figure out how to become a saintly person so that I can control the universe with my SUPER PRAYER POWERS! MWA-HA-HAAAA!”)

(This is why I have a spiritual director.)

My friend and I went back and forth for a while, wondering why very holy people tend to have these astounding answered prayer moments more often than the rest of us. I kept looking at it from the angle of How do they get God to listen to them so well?! And then, finally, I clued in and realized:

Maybe it’s that they’re listening to God so well.

Far too often, my prayer life is a monologue. I tell God what I want, what I need, what’s stressing me out. I meditate on myself and what I feel like doing, then ask God to make it so. It’s good to turn to God with all my needs, and it’s certainly better than not praying at all, but it’s missing a critical component of a thriving prayer life: listening.

Imposing my own way of praying on the situations like that of George Mueller and Mother Angelica and the lady with the tea, I assumed that these people randomly came up with some stuff they wanted, sent their order off to God, and went back to doing their own thing. What I now think is more likely is that these are people who spent a lot of time listening to God. Their certainty that God would arrange very specific outcomes to situations stemmed from the fact that it was his idea in the first place. Their requests arose not so much from self-focused self-interest, but from the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, who was able to be heard in a prayerfully silent heart.

It’s good to ask for whatever we need in prayer, of course, even if our prayer lives haven’t been great lately. But what I understand more and more as my conversion continues is just how much prayer is truly about building a relationship; that the goal is to grow closer and closer to Christ until his mind is your mind, your will is his. And the closer you get to that point, the less distinction there is between the questions of “What do I want from God?” and “What does God want for me?”

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48 Responses to ““What does God want me to pray for?””
  1. Yeah, one of my prayers is, “Lord, teach me how to listen.”

    The other thing is to do away with the assumption that YES=’answered prayers’. The times I’ve fully embraced that nasty ‘thy will be done’ clause are the times I’ve known with certainty that I’ve been heard, regardless of whether or not a cash cow comes wandering through my door just when I need it.

    Julia
    Julia at LotsaLaundry recently posted..Gossip

  2. Margo says:

    I was just having this discussion with someone yesterday and we talked about how it’s a little scary to throw all trust in the Lord and yet not know if we will be able to handle His answer. I am always struggling with that fear and yet I think what you said about listening vs. talking is the key! I could drive myself crazy that I’m still unmarried and may never have the chance to conceive a child. But I’m trying to see God’s will in this and your post is so helpful because it reminds me of the way the whole thing is supposed to work. Thank you!
    Margo recently posted..New York Gangster

  3. Liesl says:

    I can really relate to this post! Over the past year, I have watched my prayer life develop from practically none at all to asking for a list of concrete things to asking for guidance in doing God’s will for me in my life. I’m still waiting for some answers to that last one, but I feel like I spend more time sitting in quiet (or musical) reflection just listening and thinking and contemplating the awesomeness of God – especially in how He has no reason to answer our prayers except for the fact that He loves us THAT MUCH. It will just hit me sometimes and completely blow my mind.
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  4. Barbara says:

    Not only does having our prayers answered mean listening, but we also answer the prayers of others by listening. In all of those scenarios mentioned above — someone else answered a prayer. We must act on those little nudgings God gives us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been nudged by the Holy Spirit — sometimes after being nudged for a long time (duh!) — and someone will say, “you have no idea how much I needed that” even if it’s just a kind word.
    Barbara recently posted..How low will they go

    • ~ Nona says:

      What a wonderful insight, Barbara.

      I’m going to do a better job of paying attention to those little flashes and nudges. I’ve missed some big ones in my life. In one case, someone I thought of visiting — an elderly former neighbor — when I was home from college decades ago went UNvisited that day despite some reasonably persistent thoughts in that direction. Too far; too busy.

      She committed suicide that night.

      For the rest of my life I will work to try to discern true promptings from random feelings.

  5. Christina says:

    “(Though the real thought that flashed through my mind was, “I need to figure out how to become a saintly person so that I can control the universe with my SUPER PRAYER POWERS! MWA-HA-HAAAA!”)

    (This is why I have a spiritual director.)”

    I laughed so hard with this…because it’s the exact same thought I’ve had on numerous occasions. ;-)

  6. Sarah says:

    Great post! I struggle with listening in my prayer life as well. I guess my question for all of you is – HOW do you listen to God? Do you just sit there for a few extra minutes after you’ve finished your prayers? Do you go to adoration and just sit there and try not to think of anything? Does it seem like God is trying to tell you something through something someone else says to you, or an article you read, etc.? I never quite got the hang of the “listening to God” thing. If I just try to sit there and “listen” to him, my mind wanders. So how do you listen?

    • MelanieB says:

      Sarah, I can’t speak for anyone else; but this is where I am right now in terms of learning to listen.

      For me part of listening is giving God a space to speak in. I pray (or try to pray) the liturgy of the hours several times a day. I find that reading the psalms and prayers slowly and prayerfully helps me to listen because they aren’t words from my head but words that God has given to me (well, to the whole Church really).

      So often if I sit down to pray with something on my mind, a problem, a worry, even a recent conversation with a friend, I’ll find that something in the readings for the day speaks to that question and leads me to a way of thinking about the question that is different than the way I was thinking about it before. It sheds new light on it or gets my thoughts going down a different path. And that will seem to be my answer.

      Or yes, sometimes it will be something that I read or something that someone says that answers a worry I’ve been praying about. Or more often, it will be several things that I read in various places within the space of a week or two that all seem to be coincidentally saying the same thing in slightly different ways. And several people saying the same thing. Or a combination of the two. As if just one of them might be a coincidence but a whole chorus makes it clear that this is a direction of thinking that I should at least explore.

      I don’t find it very helpful to sit and not think of anything because like you say my own thoughts get in the way, my mind wanders, etc. But I do try to at least have some pauses in my prayer time and allow my thoughts to wander a bit, while bringing them back to the task at hand before they get too far afield. The liturgy of the hours also has many of those built-in pauses to reflect after each psalm and canticle and prayer.
      MelanieB recently posted..A Connie Willis Extravaganza

  7. bdc says:

    If I could boil it down to what you said: so the people who have prayers answered are actually the people who have listened to God the best.

    I have a hard time correlating that notion to getting a mortgage paid up, getting food on the table, and getting a satellite dish for a television network. All of those things are about self interest. Not in a bad, selfish way, but they are based in self interest, clearly.

    How does that square with listening to God?

    Or do you mean that the folks who miraculously delivered the money, food, and communications network were the ones listening?

    • I think that Christina’s comment (below) does a good job of answering this question. Basically, I think that God “told” them that this was something he was going to do for them, so that’s why they were so sure it would happen.

  8. Christina says:

    If you consider the sattelite dish again, in that story Mother Angelica had first discerned that God wanted her in the TV world (however she listened – which is what this thread is about). When the dish got there she didn’t have the funds to pay for it and her prayer was more the one of a confused child, “I thought you wanted this Lord, but unless the money comes it won’t happen – soooo…”

    She had the trust in the Lord, not so much that he would provide the money, but that His plan would be realized – even if she had misheard.

    • Josephene Kealey says:

      This explanation makes sense to me — Thank you, Christina. I was thinking along the same lines. If Mother A. understood that what she was doing was God’s will, then she knew He would make everything work out.

      I am currently trying to find holy resignation (right descriptor?): I tell God my needs, because He asks that we tell Him. I know He’ll answer all of them, but not in the way I expect (in my limited imagination and understanding). I trust God will take care of our need for a house, in His utterly perfect way. So I remain faithful to keeping faithful and trusting, and I know everything is beautiful the way He does it.

      I think we call people saintly (who are still alive) because we see God working in their lives so effortlessly because those saints let Him. We see God more clearly in them and in their lives because they haven’t just opened the door to Him — they’ve removed all of the walls and foundations to let Him build His temple.

      This is a great post — it’s got me thinking along wonderful lines of prayerful thought.

  9. “I need to figure out how to become a saintly person so that I can control the universe with my SUPER PRAYER POWERS! MWA-HA-HAAAA!”

    So been there, done that [smile]. I think you’re right on: Prayers that get answered are the ones in line with what God wants to do.

    ~Luke
    Luke Holzmann recently posted..Better Science- Random Chance

  10. Barbara says:

    “She had the trust in the Lord, not so much that he would provide the money, but that His plan would be realized – even if she had misheard.”

    Yes, Christina — His plan, not Sister’s, not ours! I heard Raymond Arroyo relate the story this past weekend at the Family Celebration and he said that, in the case of the satellite dish, Sister left it up to God. If the money didn’t show, then the satellite dish went back, and she assumed it to be God’s will. The amazing thing is, somewhere else in the world, a man was on his yacht (according to Raymond) and suddenly decided he must call Sister at that moment and donate exactly $600,000 — the Holy Spirit and His mysterious ways!
    Barbara recently posted..How low will they go

  11. Kat says:

    Recently, God has really allowed me to grow in my prayer life. He has shown me that I need to pray about things in relation to how I can serve and glorify Him. For example, praying for a talent because I want to be recognized by others or feel good about myself probably will not work. But allowing God to change my heart so that it craves the talent so that I can use it to show love to Him and His people is the type of prayer that He wants to and does answer!

  12. J.A. says:

    Reminds me a film I saw decades ago, in which a preacher’s voice is heard over the loudspeakers: “Prayers are answered. Because whatever happens — that’s the answer.” The inclusion of that statement in the film had, I vaguely recall, a parodical intention; but the phrase could be rightly taken to mean that God has infinite ways of replying. Silence or delay or sending the opposite thing could be divine forms of reply, sometimes.
    Of course, the better attuned our will is to God’s -the art of “listening”, as you say-, the more often we’ll request -and receive- what God wants to give us in the first place.
    (St. Augustine nicely says, referring to the prayer of Christ + those united to Him: “vox una, quia caro una” (= “they have one voice, for they are one flesh”) (Enarratio in Psalmum 101, sermo 1, 2).)

  13. Rachel says:

    This is so interesting because I was just reading an essay by C.S. Lewis entitled “Petitionary Prayer: A problem without an answer”. He describes two models of asking for things in prayer. In one model we’re supposed to pray with submission, saying “Thy will be done” and accepting that God may not grant what we’re desperately asking for– like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the other model we’re supposed to pray with great confidence, having no doubt that God *will* grant what we’re asking– like Jesus said in Matthew 21:21-22, that if have enough faith we can make mountains throw themselves into the sea. Lewis didn’t know how to figure out which model of prayer he was supposed to be using, and he ended the essay with a question: “How am I to pray this very night?”

    Your blog post has clarified my own thinking, and now I have a theory that we’re supposed to pray with great confidence if we’re close enough to God that we’re hearing Him tell us to pray for that particular thing. Otherwise we should pray, “Thy will be done.” I could be wrong, though; I’d welcome further refinement of the theory. :)

    An example of my theory is in “Left to Tell”, the story of Immaculée Ilibagiza in the Rwandan holocaust. Her prayers to God for the life of her family went unanswered. But after it was all over she decided to pray for a husband, giving God a list of specific requirements and a time limit of six months– and God gave her exactly what she asked for. She had no doubt that He would. I think God must have moved her to pray in that way.

  14. I have struggled with the concept of prayer for years. There is so much tension. I don’t understand it, and it’s difficult for me to practice something I don’t understand.

    That said, I’ve found a great deal of rest in these statements from Oswald Chambers: “Our ordinary views of prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself. … It is not so true that ‘prayer changes things’ as that prayer changes me and I change things. God has so constituted things that prayer on the basis of Redemption alters the way in which a man looks at things. Prayer is not a question of altering things externally, but of working wonders in a man’s disposition.”
    Kelly @ Love Well recently posted..Life with Four

  15. Mary Beth says:

    This post really hits me (us) where I live.

    And Rachel, I have met Imaculee, and read all of her books, but I still struggle with the fact that most of her family, and her tribe, died! And yet they had faith.

    I know that God preserved Imaculee so that she could tell her amazing story of forgiveness in the face of so much pain. I guess my faith is still just too immature to grasp it all. I have evidence of God’s provience in my own life – but I have never faced anything near the horrors Imaculee has. I guess it is most evident that God’s grace has sustained her, and that her suffering is redemptive.

  16. Laura says:

    I do believe you’ve hit the nail on the head. I have a pretty good idea when God is going to answer some outlandish prayer because it seems as if He is the one who put the request in me to begin with. If I just randomly decide that I want a bigger car, then pray fervently for it, (trust or no trust) I have a pretty good idea that it is unlikely to be answered. But in my life, when I get these far-out prayer requests, I feel pretty confident that they will be answered. There is a sense of peace that comes with these prayers, too. This peace is usually missing with the those random prayer requests. I’m not saying that those types of prayer are never answered, but there is definitely a difference.

    It usually seems to happen when you take a huge leap of faith about something, which ultimately is something that has been inspired by the Holy Spirit and then you peacefully pray, just knowing that God wants it too and that it will all work out. It really is a beautiful thing :)

    God Bless.
    Laura recently posted..The Simple Life

  17. Another great post- I love your conclusion that holy people listen to God better than we normal folk- I have to try listening more…

  18. Loretta S. says:

    Wait, wait. Talk more about your spiritual director! How did you find him? When did you need him? What do you do? Don’t you feel like God is nudging you along and really God is your director? Is he also your confessor? How often do you meet? What do you talk about? Is it more of a counselor relationship that’s one-way? (Like if you go to see a therapist and your the only one doing the talking. I always that that was weird – I can’t talk to people who don’t share back.) Is it a HUGE change in your spiritual walk to have one or is it simply a nice addendum? And about a dozen other questions…(I realized that I presumed that it was a male director, do they have female directors? Are directors priests?) See…so many questions…

  19. Janet says:

    This reminds me of a time in my own life, where I was facing severely painful situations simultaneously at home and at work– I’ll leave the details out, but suffice it to say that both were apparently on an unavoidable (at least through my actions unavoidable) path to disaster. I had been praying with increasing desperation for God to *make* the three or four people who were causing the issues change their behavior, and things were just getting worse.

    Two things finally changed it all for me. First, I was introduced to the devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots– one of the lesser-known titles for the Blessed Virgin, but actually dating back to the 2nd century. (This was through a secular newspaper article, about Brazilian Charismatics, of all things.) I realized that I had not only been asking for a resolution to a problem, but had been giving God a detailed set of instructions on how to achieve it! How arrogant! So, I changed my prayer to simply saying, “I have this knot in my life,” and mentally laying it in front of Our Lady and Jesus for their loving attention.

    The second thing followed immediately: I had a calm, strong statement form instantly in my mind: “Do you want to see?” I answered, “Yes, I want to see. Give me your eyes to see with.” That too was answered immediately– much to my embarrassment, actually, as I suddenly saw these people who had done me so much gratuitous harm– as sad, hurting people trapped in a network of sin and confusion. They were hurting themselves far worse than they were hurting me (particularly two from work) and suddenly all I could feel was pity rather than anger. It was so obvious, once I looked– I should have seen it sooner.

    After that, I tried to pray for both intentions repeatedly– and I found I was totally unable to! I had the immediate certainty that my prayer had been answered, and I simply could not continue to ask! Yet nothing seemed to have changed, externally. Then I tried to pray for guidance on what I should do. The immediate answer: Nothing. It’s done already. I wasn’t able to continue praying for that, either. I gave up in bafflement, and just left my “knots” with Our Lady and Jesus. I got a very clear feeling of peace and contentment… but no information about how it would all resolve.

    I later found out that all of the people in question started having amazing events occurring in their lives– one saw his guardian angel save his life from a plane crash, another had a vivid vision/dream of Jesus telling him to change, several complete strangers (who never met me, ever) intervened spontaneously in my favor, there was a false medical test result for one which scared him badly (he didn’t know the test had even been run, actually; the clinic just called him up out of the blue), and probably lots more that I don’t know. In short, the knots had been undone without my action, just as I had been told, once I got myself in line with God’s will rather than mine.

  20. Laura says:

    You have no idea how glad I am that your blog exists. It’s like you know what I’m thinking. My prayers always turn out to either be requests for the day, or to be so generic that I figure that God must think I am trying to swindle him (“You are so awesome and amazing etc.”) I mean, it’s not like I ask for a pony for my birthday or anything—I usually just ask for guidance on especially stressful days, but I sometimes feel like I am only constantly demanding things.
    Laura recently posted..Somebody Up There Likes Me

  21. Kate says:

    “(This is why I have a spiritual director.)”

    You almost made me wake up a sleeping baby!! LOL!!!!!!!

    I often pity my spiritual director. He seems to like me O.K. though, even though I’m a big goober. :)

    Anyhoo, on the topic at hand, I was once the answer to a prayer along these lines.

    There was a family of 8 (10?) kids, and the parents really wanted a pool for them. The pool was important for physical therapy for at least one of the kids.

    They figured out that they needed an above-ground pool of a certain size. They also figured out that there was no way that they could afford it. So, every night at dinner, the mom prayed, “Thank you, God, for the pool you’re going to give us.” Her family made fun of her. Then, I posted on the Catholic homeschool group that we had just bought a house with an above ground pool that we couldn’t afford to take care of, and we offered it for free to anyone who was interested.

    Her family didn’t make fun of her anymore. :)
    Kate recently posted..74 Were making something!!!

  22. syd says:

    I love these posts on prayer. I am new to being a Christian, and I feel like what’s the point of prayer sometimes if what’s going to happen is going to happen. Like, say someone’s sick. What does it mean to pray for that sick person? Is it like God’s not going to heal them if we don’t? I figure if God wants them healed he’ll do it without me praying, but then I think well, shouldn’t I pray for them to be healed? I don’t know. It’s so confusing! :) I feel so dumb sometimes :)

    I also have been wondering about wants. Is it okay to pray for wants? Or are we only allowed to pray for needs? Lately, I’ve been feeling guilty for buying things or having things that aren’t needs. Like toys. Should I buy my children toys if they already have them? Is it wrong? What is wrong with me? LOL :)

    I also just have such a hard time with the listening part. How do you hear God? If I just sit there quietly, I just start talking to myself or talking AT God again. And how do you know what you are hearing is from God or just from yourself?

    For me, so many times little coincidences happen, and I think — that’s from God. But then I think, well maybe it’s just a coincidence and I’m making too much of it.

    Lately, I’ve been moved to look into buying a house. I didn’t plan on it; I happened to see a postcard in the mail for an auction and I usually throw those things away as annoying junk mail, but this one I kept and looked at. When I went to the courthouse to look up some records on the property, thinking to myself — this is ridiculous why am I here, it’s just wishful thinking on my part — I saw fliers on the benches that said “Jesus loves you”. And I almost started crying. Now am I making too much of that??

    ugh. LOL, I think I need some coffee. Thanks for listening!

  23. Christine says:

    God answers all prayers – but most times we feel he hasn’t because the answer is not what we are expecting nor does His answer come as fast as WE think it should.

    Here’s something to make you smile… A fellow late for a very important appointment downtown Chicago prayed, “Lord, find me a parking space & I promise to come to Mass every Sunday”. As he prayed a spot opened up right in front of him. The fellow looked up and said, “Never mind, found one!”

    Peace

  24. Jen G says:

    I think you should read St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography. There is a chapter entitled “Spiritual Voices” that you might find helpful! I have the edition translated by Mirabai Starr.

  25. Julie M Jentz says:

    Great post and great blog. I deeply agree with your statement, “Maybe it’s that they’re listening to God so well.” Please check out the Parker family’s blog at hpp:\\snadoption.blogspot.com. They are in the final stages of bring their two beautiful little girls with Down syndrome home from the Ukraine. The Parker’s faith in God through every harrowing step in the adoption of their girls shows the power of prayer and listening to God. Also, PLEASE check out the Reeces Rainbow website. There are a lot of precious children who need prayers to help their families find them.

  26. Anthony says:

    There are a lot of prayerful people on here, so I would like to ask – since we’re on the subject of prayer – how I can get the Holy Spirit to act in my wife’s life and open her eyes to the Truth about our Lord Jesus Christ. Every day I pray the rosary and ask for the conversion of all sinners, especially my wife, but it would seem my wife is either not listening or…well, what? I certainly feel moved to keep praying and I know God listens but I don’t see any progress. What am I doing wrong?

  27. Elaine T says:

    Anthony, you may not be doing anything wrong. Maybe it just isn’t time yet. OTOH, have you tried changing your prayer to something like: If I need to do something (besides prayer) that I’m not, God, please show me what it is.

    I sometimes find myself doing that. And adding all sorts of qualifications – like that parenthetical, but more of them …Which I eventually realize and back off of.

    I’ve been prayer for my husband and child to come to love God, and trust Him. It’s taken years, but during a recent family crisis when husband and I were talking I realized he was speaking with faith and trust in God. Yay! Child – haven’t seen progress yet, but hope springs eternal.

    Segueing –
    My most unexpected experience with prayer has been when hearing of a great need for prayer, getting a very strong “DON’T PRAY FOR THIS CAUSE”. It’s so unexpected I take it as real, but I also usually say a few quick, “I think you’re telling me this, God, if you’re not, please let me know.” sorts of prayer.

    • Elaine- I like your advice- prayer is key- but action is too.

      Anthony- don’t despair- try to be an example of God’s love in her life. Maybe she didn’t have a loving father (?) so it is difficult for her to get to know God- as a husband, you are second in line as the example of God the Father for her (even if she doesn’t know it)-try to stay positive- say a prayer for her while you are making her a coffee- and just give it to her before you go to Mass. just some ideas…..
      priest’s wife recently posted..Easy Upside Down Apple Crisp

      • Anthony says:

        Thanks all for your thoughts, they certainly have helped. I will never despair because I trust that God hears my prayers. If they are not answered precisely how I would like, then I will trust that He knows exactly what He is doing in my life.

  28. soonerscotty says:

    “Why God seems to answer saintly people’s prayers more than mine”

    I hate hearing this from people…Why doesn’t God answer my prayers.

    God answers all prayers!!!

    It may not be on YOUR timeline.

    It may not be the answer YOU want…and more importantly, the answer may be no.

    But, God answers ALL prayers.

  29. Amy says:

    Am I really the only naysayer that reads your blog anymore? Admittedly, I’m envious of how many readers you have that think every thought you express is the best ever, and you definitely have a knack for putting into words your experience in such a way that even someone like me, whose views seem to have become pretty much the polar opposite of yours, feels compelled to hang around. I don’t like the idea of trolls and haters ganging up on you, but you certainly don’t get as many commenters from the other side of the fence as you used to. I feel a bit lonely! But pleased for you.

    But to the point, prayer, and the complete lack of any sort of response at all, the utter silence on the other end that I experienced, the realization that I was simply talking to myself, and needed to start looking to myself for answers, was ultimately the straw that broke the camel’s back for me in terms of continuing on the path.

    I do believe that prayer can change people, but for psychological reasons rather than supernatural ones. But I suppose as long as the change is for the better, it doesn’t really matter. Anyone that turns their mind in a disciplined fashion toward changing for the better is going to see benefits, whether that person is Mother Teresa or Gandhi or the Dalai Lama. Or just regular old people like us.

  30. syd says:

    I recently started reading Crossing the Threshold of Hope by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, and the chapter on prayer was very enlightening. His words were so soothing to me, like a cool aloe on a burn.

    He said man must not put up obstacles. And then just this morning, I read this verse:

    “I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” Psalm 66:17-19

    This part of “cherished sin” was particularly striking to me.
    I really need to meditate on this. If I have some sin that I’m holding on to, then that may be my obstacle. I need to let it all go, repent of ALL of it; even if it seems little or old or unimportant anymore, because apparently it is important and needs to be addressed.

    Things are starting to gel.

  31. TRS says:

    Oh, I do struggle with prayer.
    This is a great reminder to BELIEVE that the Lord can and will provide what you ask for.
    Your examples all showed that the faithful believed their prayer would be answered.

    My priest recently told the story of a pastor of a rural church – in a community that relies on agriculture for it’s economy. They were suffering from severe drought – so one Sunday the pastor told his church that everyone should gather everyone they know, and come to church the following Tuesday, when and they would all come together to pray for rain. Surely, if the entire community came together, God would answer their prayers.

    Tuesday came, and the turn out was incredible. Everyone was there. The most amazing gathering ever. The crowd murmured, impressed with themselves. But the pastor hung his head in his hands and said… “Oh, that we don’t all have the faith of our dear sister Alba!!”
    The entire crowd turned to look at Miss Alba… the only person who bothered to bring an umbrella.

    I have to remind myself… if you’re going to pray for rain, have enough faith to carry an umbrella.
    If you can’t show God that you believe in what He can do… why would He do? Ye of little faith.

  32. I am always amazed at how circular the relationship situation is with God, we seek His will, which in turn becomes our will in our desire to be more like Him and to server Him. Our church is currently going through a series on finances and being debt free, and since money seems to be the second biggest area for which prayers are sent up (health being first), it’s surprising to me why so many Christ-followers believe that Christians are given a “get out of financial trouble free card.” On the contrary, if we check the Bible closely, we’re more called to poverty than wealth or financial happiness or success, yet we continue to pray for both. Jesus had nothing physically but the clothes on his back. He constantly told His followers to leave everything to follow him and even when He sent His disciples out, He specifically told them not to take anything but a walking staff and the clothes on their back.

    Maybe the lack of answer we hope to receive means that He has bigger plans for us.
    The Mom Chef ~ Taking on Magazines One Recipe at a Time recently posted..Maple-Almond Granola with Dried Berries from Bon Appetit Magazine- September 2010

  33. Eddie says:

    This was a great article and great follow up comments….I particularly enjoyed reading Janets comments. Its giving me hope in my current situation.

    I’m having trouble what exactly to ask for in prayer….situation is that my significant other had an affair which I found out about; and recently told me she’s still got “loving” feelings for that other person. She wants him out of her life, and wants to “loose” those feelings; but is finding it hard.

    I ask God for her healing of the pains, anger & resentments she has for me, that may have lead her down that path; and for the healing of her heart.

    I want to pray for her to “loose” those feelings for the other person. Is that right of me to even ask that? I pray and ask God right out…”God, please allow her to stop having feelings for the other person?” and I’m not sure if that is wrong of me. Anybody have any suggestions? This affair has really damaged our relationship. Also, prayers for Jessica and myself in this situation would really be apprectiated.

    Thanks for your blog Jennifer!!!!

  34. Conrad says:

    Could you please point me to some repeatable studies that demonstrate that prayer has any real effect?

    • Christina says:

      Could you please point me to some repeatable studies that demonstrate that asking your wife to make you a sandwich has any real effect?

  35. Jed Chandler says:

    I came to this website by accident when I typed in ‘What does God want?’ Not for me, in particulatr, but what does God want ‘to do’ or ‘for himself’ (OK, I can see that sounds daft!) I was trying to get views on whether God has volition, or just is, or is volition. And *bing*, your blog helped me think about it from another angle.

    I kept finding answers about ‘what does God want me to do’. And maybe this is where your blog speaks to me. Maybe the personalisation of divine intention is an imposition of the ego before the divine. Maybe we should in fact be mindful of God, not of ‘what about me in God’s plan?’ in short, we should become selfless before God, more saintly as it were.

    And then, of course, Jesus himself – ‘thy will, not mine be done’… Yep, I think you are on to something!