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Prayer, Not Despair

Prayer, Not Despair

Editor’s note: It feels like our world needs prayer now more than ever – we’re constantly hearing of natural disasters, social unrest, and political division. Even when we pray, anxiety can take over our minds when we give into our stresses. If you could use some more calm, we invite you to download our FREE guide from Max, 12 Prayers For When You Feel Anxious. These prayers will help you talk to God and hear his voice clearly in times of worry. Plus, when you sign up you’ll also receive Max’s C.A.L.M. guide, and a beautiful printable of Philippians 4:6-7. Get your free downloads right here. With Max’s help and God’s loving guidance, we hope that these free resources will help you work through seasons of struggle.


Peace happens when people pray.

I like the story of the father who was teaching his three-year- old daughter the Lord’s Prayer. She would repeat the lines after him. Finally she decided to go solo. He listened with pride as she carefully enunciated each word, right up to the end of the prayer. “Lead us not into temptation,” she prayed, “but deliver us from e-mail.”

These days that seems like an appropriate request. God calls us to pray about everything. The terms prayer, supplication, and requests are similar but not identical. Prayer is a general devotion; the word includes worship and adoration. Supplication suggests humility. We are the supplicants in the sense that we make no demands; we simply offer humble requests. A request is exactly that — a specific petition. We tell God exactly what we want. We pray the particulars of our problems.

What Jesus said to the blind man, he says to us:

What do you want Me to do for you? — Luke 18:41 NIV

One would think the answer would be obvious. When a sightless man requests Jesus’ help, isn’t it apparent what he needs? Yet Jesus wanted to hear the man articulate his specific requests.

He wants the same from us. “Let your requests be made known to God.” When the wedding ran low on wine, Mary wasn’t content to say, “Help us, Jesus.” She was specific:

They have no more wine. — John 2:3 NIV

The needy man in Jesus’ parable requested,

Friend, lend me three loaves. — Luke 11:5 NIV

Not just “Give me something to eat”
or “Can you help me out?” He made a specific request. Even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane prayed specifically,

Take this cup from Me. — Luke 22:42 NIV

Why does this matter? I can think of three reasons.

  1. A specific prayer is a serious prayer. If I say to you, “Do you mind if I come by your house sometime?” you may not take me seriously. But suppose I say, “Can I come over this Friday night? I have a problem at work, and I really need your advice. I can be there at seven, and I promise I will leave by eight.” Then you know my petition is sincere. When we offer specific requests, God knows the same.
  2. Specific prayer is an opportunity for us to see God at work. When we see Him respond in specific ways to specific requests, our faith grows. The book of Genesis relates the wonderful prayer of Abraham’s servant. He was sent to Mesopotamia, Abraham’s homeland, to find a wife for Abraham’s son. How does a servant select a wife for someone else? This servant prayed about it.

“O Lord, God of my master, Abraham,” he prayed. “Please give me success today, and show unfailing love to my master, Abraham. See, I am standing here beside this spring, and
the young women of the town are coming out to draw water. This is my request. I will ask one of them, ‘Please give me a drink from your jug.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’—let her be the one you have selected as Isaac’s wife. is is how I will know that you have shown unfailing love to my master.” — Genesis 24:12–14 NLT

Could the servant have been more detailed? He asked for success in his endeavor. He envisioned an exact dialogue, and then he stepped forth in faith. Scripture says,

Before he had finished speaking, Rebekah appeared. — Genesis 24:15 ISV

She said the words. The servant had an answered prayer. He saw God at work.

  1. Specific prayer creates a lighter load. Many of our anxieties are threatening because they are ill defined and vague. If we can distill the challenge into a phrase, we bring it down to size. It
is one thing to pray, Lord, please bless my meeting tomorrow.It is another thing to pray, Lord, I have a conference with my supervisor at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow. She intimidates me. Would you please grant me a spirit of peace so I can sleep well tonight? Grant me wisdom so I can enter the meeting prepared. And would You soften her heart toward me and give her a generous spirit? Help us have a gracious conversation in which both of us benefit and Your name is honored. There. You have reduced the problem into a prayer-sized challenge.

This is no endorsement of the demanding, conditional prayer that presumes to tell God what to do and when. Nor do I suggest that the power of prayer resides in chanting the right formula or quoting some secret code. Do not think for a moment that the power of prayer resides in the way we present it. God is not manipulated or impressed by our formulas or eloquence. But He is moved by the sincere request. After all, is He not our Father? As His children we honor Him when we tell him exactly what we need.

On my good days I begin my morning with a cup of coffee and a conversation with God. I look ahead into the day and make my requests. I am meeting with so-and-so at 10:00 a.m. Would You give me wisdom? This afternoon I need to finish my sermon. WouldYyou please go ahead of me? Then if a sense of stress surfaces during the day, I remind myself, Oh, I gave this challenge to God earlier today. He has already taken responsibility for the situation. I can be grateful, not fretful.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. — 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

Casting is an intentional act to relocate an object. When the disciples prepared Jesus to ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, they “cast their garments upon the colt” (Luke 19:35 KJV). The crowd removed the garments off their backs and spread them in the path of Christ. Let this “throwing” be your first response to bad news. As you sense anxiety welling up inside you, cast it in the direction of Christ. Do so specifically and immediately.

I did a good job of “casting my problems” in a high school algebra class. My brain scans reveal a missing region marked by the sign “Intended for Algebra.” I can remember sitting in the class and staring at the textbook as if it were a novel written in Mandarin Chinese.

Fortunately I had a wonderful, patient teacher. He issued this invitation and stuck to it. “If you cannot solve a problem, come to me and I will help you.”

I wore a trail into the floor between his desk and mine. Each time I had a question, I would approach his desk and remind him, “Remember how you promised you would help?” When he said yes, instant gratitude and relief kicked in. I still had the problem, mind you, but I had entrusted the problem to one who knew how to solve it.

Do the same. Take your problem to Christ and tell Him, “You said you would help me. Would You?”

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah said,

Put the Lord in remembrance [of His promises], keep not silence. — Isaiah 62:6 AMPC

God told Isaiah,

Put Me in remembrance; let us contend together. — Isaiah 43:26

God invites you — yes, commands you — to remind Him of His promises. Populate your prayer with “You said…”

“You said You would walk me through the waters” (Isaiah 43:2, author’s paraphrase).

“You said You would lead me through the valley” (Psalm 23:4, author’s paraphrase).

“You said that You would never leave or forsake me” (Hebrews 13:5, author’s paraphrase).

Find a promise that fits your problem, and build your prayer around it. These prayers of faith touch the heart of God and activate the angels of Heaven. Miracles are set into motion. Your answer may not come overnight, but it will come. And you will overcome.

Prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. — Ephesians 6:18 The Message

The path to peace is paved with prayer.

Less consternation, more supplication. Fewer anxious thoughts, more prayer-filled thoughts. As you pray, the peace of God will guard your heart and mind. And, in the end, what could be better?

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Excerpted with permission from Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.

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Your Turn

Are you worried? Troubled? In a big mess? Pray! Peace happens when we pray. Be specific. Tell Jesus exactly what you need, precisely what you need Him to provide. Come share your thoughts with us about the peace that prayer brings on our blog. We want to hear from you!