Quick To Pray

There’s an old adage that God gave us two ears and one mouth because we are supposed to listen twice as much as we speak. As a general principle, this works. We can all probably attest to a time that we were too quick to open our mouths only to wish in retrospect that we had listened a little more. While many people have been accused of being a “chatterbox,” I have never heard of someone who over-listened.

However, there is one time that we should be quick to use our mouths and that is when it comes time to pray. In fact, when it comes to petitioning God we should be eager to bring Him our concerns, our thoughts, and our feelings. Too often we enthusiastically share what’s in our minds with everyone else, and never think to take time to pray through the situation beforehand.

I was reminded of this recently when my husband and I faced a challenging situation. I am the type of person who likes loose ends tied up and a comprehensive plan in place. However, this situation had dragged on for months. As I was preparing to talk to my husband about it yet again, I was reminded of some wisdom that a friend had shared. “Make sure you’ve prayed about your concerns at least as much as you talk about them.” Immediately I was convicted. I was jumping to formulate a plan but hadn’t sufficiently prayed for the people involved. I was quick to spout my wisdom without first bringing it to the One from Whom all wisdom comes.

So I prayed. With intention and with specificity I brought my concerns to God. And instead of checking off the box and then moving forward with what I thought was best, I waited. I didn’t even bring up the incident to my husband until later that day when he called to tell me that progress had been made. Without any direct intervening on my end, God had worked. The situation hadn’t changed in months, but on the very day that I was intentional in praying for everyone involved, things begin to take place. And because I waited rather than meddling, I could clearly see His hand and His grace.

This shouldn’t be taken as a promise that God will always give us an immediate answer to our prayers. But it is illustrative nonetheless and it helps demonstrate at least four benefits of being quick to pray.

In The Right Hands

When we bring our concerns to God first, we rightly give them to the One who can wrought change and orchestrate any situation for His Kingdom’s purposes. I had waited months for the situation to change, and it didn’t. No amount of my worry or concern brought us any closer to resolution. But God can. In His timing and in His ways, He can change circumstances to accomplish what He wills. When we pray we are compelled to recognize that and we are then less likely to think that we have any control over things we do not.

Refocused Hearts

When we pray first, it helps ensure that our hearts are aligned with His and that our desires mirror His own. This means that if and when we do talk about the situation we are doing so with God’s priorities in mind. It becomes less about getting our way and more about making sure that we are acting according to His.  When we share our stress with others, especially those that care the most about us, they are likely to take our side and want to contend for our desires. Praying first helps ensure that what we desire is what God desires. And it helps us to talk about the situation in a way that brings glory and honor to Him.

Protected Relationships

When we pray first, it reduces the chance that we will create unnecessary tension and divisiveness in our relationships because we will have His love for those in the situation and those with whom we share. Sharing our concerns with others involves them in the situation, whether they are directly a part of it or not.  This often means that they take on that which offends us and they seek to protect us. When restoration later occurs between us and the offending party, those that we share with may not be involved in our reconciliation. Therefore, they continue to think of the offending party in less-than-flattering terms.

Additionally, when we are eager to spill our thoughts we often say things thoughtlessly. We may hurt those that we love by “venting” to them in a way that demeans and dishonors them. Praying first helps protect our relationships because we are more likely to share in a mindful and loving way.

His Ways, Not Ours

When we pray first, we are more likely to see things from God’s perspective rather than our own. When we think about a situation, we tend to focus on how it affects us and our viewpoint is very limited. God, however, sees the big picture. Bringing our concerns to Him helps us remember that while we only see part of the equation, He sees it all. Realizing that His intentions may be different than our own, we can also trust that His purposes are for the best – not only for us but for all of His kids (Rom. 8:28).

Don’t Just Act, Wait

If you are anything like me, when you are upset or concerned about something you want to act. However acting rashly is rarely in our best interest. Instead, we need to bring those concerns to God and wait until our perspectives, our hearts, and our desires align with His. As we do so we may realize that we don’t need to act at all, but we do need to wait to see what He is going to do.

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The Fight With Complacency (and the question I wish I asked more)

People often say that “familiarity breeds contempt.” This may sometimes be the case, but perhaps even more frequently familiarity gives birth to complacency.  We may not have disdain for those things or people that we are most familiar with, but we do tend to get accustomed to them. As we acclimate to their presence, our care of them tends to wane.

This is often seen in marriages. The formalities and niceties that permeated the dating relationships can disappear as couples live their lives day-in and day-out. We make assumptions about what our husband or wife thinks because we believe we know them so well. Hurt feelings are disregarded and compliments end because we’ve simply grown used to having them around. Our attention to details tends to fade.

Because of this proclivity, we sometimes forget to ask the same questions of our spouse that we would a close friend. These like “how are you doing?” become perfunctory rather than an ardent inquiry into their well-being. For the Christian, an even better question that is often neglected is “how can I be praying for you?” Because we assume we know what is going on in our spouse’s life, we may not think to ask.

However, regularly and intentionally asking our spouse for their prayer requests has several benefits. Namely:

You better understand their challenges and struggles. When you catch up with each other and the end of the day there is often a list of discussion points that must be covered. You need to compare calendars, make plans, and ensure you are on the same page with one another in regards to the kids. While doing this you may think that you have a good understanding of your loved one’s day, but likely you have only a cursory overview. Asking for specific prayer requests helps reveals what issues are most pressing on your spouse’s heart. It reveals what areas or issues are causing them concern, and allows you to partner together in facing them.

You are better prepared to help them. Building off the previous point, when you are aware of the issues that your spouse must contend with during a day, you know better how you may bless them. You may think that your are helping your spouse because you are preparing dinner and getting the laundry done, but perhaps what they really need in that season is someone to take the car in for an oil change which they have intended to do for the last several weeks but it just never got done. This is a simplistic example, but it illustrates the point. We tend to do the same thing that we’ve always done assuming that what has been beneficial in the past carries the same benefit into the future. People and marriages go through seasons and different needs arise. Asking your spouse for their prayer requests not only allows you to petition God for help on their behalf, it may be an opportunity that God uses to speak into your heart on how you may bless the one you love.

You can follow up and keep track. When you say a general prayer for your spouse, God is faithful to respond. The challenge is that you don’t have any idea what the response was. Because you were not specific, it is difficult to demonstrate a specific answer. This means that you can’t follow-up with your spouse to see whether their needs were met, nor can you know whether continued petitioning is needed. Additionally, you have no record of God’s faithful and generous response to your requests, because all your requests were abstract. Throughout Scripture God calls His people to remember what He has done in their lives. Knowing how He has responded to your prayers is one aspect of this. If you have only made general requests on behalf of your spouse, all of your recollections will be general too. While this may provide some comfort the next time you face an uncertain or scary future, specificity would probably provide even greater assurance as you recall the things God has done.

You show your spouse love. One of the marvelous things about prayer is that even nonbelievers tend to appreciate it when you pray for them. Lifting your loved one up to the One who loves them even more than you do and Whose purposes can not be thwarted (Job 42:2) demonstrates your affection and concern. Your spouse will likely face many situations where you can not tangibly provide them what they need. However, you can always pray. As you do so, you are asking the One who controls all to intervene on their behalf. What is a better indication of love than that?

In the busyness of the days it is easy to assume that you know how you should pray for your spouse. However, purposefully asking them for their requests has numerous benefits. As we do so we reveal that our familiarity has not caused us to grow passive. Instead, the more we are aware of their concerns, the more likely we are to bear their burden as our own (see Gal. 6:2). The more we know how we should petition, the more we see the response and the effects of those prayers. And the more purposefully we pray, the more demonstratively we show our love.

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