Being Too Careful in What You Pray For

Handle with Care

Be careful what you ask for! I’m guessing you’ve heard the saying. If you’re a parent, you may have even uttered it.

That saying reminds me of something similar a wise person once said to me: Be careful what you pray for. If you ask God for patience, He will certainly answer. Just not necessarily in the way you expect or hope. You’re likely to wind up with a lot of situations requiring patience.

This remark has stayed with me for decades. It can have one of two effects:

  1. It might change what we pray for; -or-
  2. It might prepare you for the answer that you receive.

I’d like to say the comment has always had the second effect, but far too often it’s had the first. I may want the fruit, but I don’t want a growing process rooted in difficulties and trials. Sometimes I feel like praying for the work of the Spirit is like asking for problems.

Returning to the Discipline of Silence

I hope that you are a bit further along on your spiritual journey. I pray that you willingly embrace whatever it is that God may have for you. I, on the other hand, am still very much a work in progress.

This fall, though, God prompted me to go back and work through Ruth Haley Barton’s Invitation to Solitude and Silence, which digs into the two spiritual disciplines in its title.  I first read this book at the prompting of a mentor several years ago. As I engaged in these disciplines I encountered a new working of the Spirit in my life. Refreshment. Hope. Presence. With the Spirit’s prompting, I was eager to return.

At the end of each chapter in this book, Barton gives suggestions for practicing the topic she has been discussing. I’m so glad she does, because for those of us who are new to these disciplines, silence and solitude can be challenging and even intimidating.

As part of the practices at the end of the first chapter she makes the following recommendation:

Ask God to give you a simple prayer that expresses your openness and desire for God. Choose a phrase that expresses your desire or need for God these days in the simplest terms possible. It is best if the prayer is no more than six or eight syllables so that it can be prayed very naturally in the rhythm of your breathing. Pray this prayer several times as an entry into silence and also as a way of dealing with distractions.      

Barton, Invitation, 41

Embracing a Potentially “Dangerous” Prayer

So, one morning back in mid-September I asked God for that prayer. He brought to mind Mark 9:24:

I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.

Then He reminded me of a prayer that Margaret Feinberg shared:

Holy Spirit, I want all of You!

The prayer He gave me merged these two:

Lord, I want to want You.

I want God. I want His presence. I want His transformative work. But not always. Not enough. Not as much as I should.

Lord, I want to want You.

This has been my repeated prayer over the past two months. It has featured prominently in my times of silence. It has run through my mind as I’ve hiked in the mountains. It has become a nearly constant companion.

Lord, I want to want You. Father, bring me to a place where I am happy and willing to embrace whatever it is You have for me; whatever it is that You want to change in me.  

Even this prayer has proved a bit “dangerous,” though. God has answered it by taking me into painful places that show me how much I need His work and His Spirit.

I want God more. Maybe, like in our prayers for patience, He doesn’t answer in the way that I would have asked. But He has answered. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

How about you? What have you been praying for lately? Are you willing to dive into the deep end of your faith? Are you ready to embrace whatever it takes for Him to transform You into the image of His beloved Son? If not, I’m not judging you—obviously I’ve been there. But if that’s where you are, maybe my prayer is one that God will use in your life, too.

Lord, I want to want You.

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Image by paulracko from Pixabay.

2 thoughts on “Being Too Careful in What You Pray For

  1. Jen, thank you. Your prayer reminds me of one I was led to several years ago. I desire to desire what you desire. To delight in Him means our desires will be changed to His desires. Blessings in our Lord.


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