The puzzle of prayers - Hope 103.2

The puzzle of prayers

By David ReayMonday 7 Dec 2015LifeWords DevotionalsFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


Read Luke 6:12-15

12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot. (NIV)

Luke 22:39-42

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (NIV)

John 17:20-21

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (NIV)

The common theme of these three passages is simply this: Jesus prayed for something that either didn’t get granted or was answered in a puzzling way. He prayed for the right group of disciples and ended up with Judas—as well as a rather mixed lot otherwise. He prayed that he wouldn’t suffer the painful death awaiting him. He did. He prayed that the church be united and so witness to God. It so often fails to do so.

For any of us who have wrestled with the issue of prayers bouncing off the ceiling or prayers being answered in puzzling ways, rest assured we are in good company. Not even the perfect man got exactly what he asked for in the way he might have expected.

Prayer is never merely a mechanical means to getting something we badly want, even if what we badly want is apparently good and godly. We are to ask boldly, but also to ask humbly. We boldly trust God will respond but humbly accept that his response may surprise or even disappoint us.

Ultimately, prayer is more about cultivating a relationship with God than getting our wishes granted. It is more about expressing helpless dependence than summonsing up great faith. Seeing it like this enables us to go on praying even when the praying seems puzzling.

David Reay