A friend or acquaintance approaches (usually at church) with a request you'd rather not agree to (usually ministry related).
Outside voice: "Ummm, can I get back to you? After I pray about it?"
Inside voice: Pass the tweezers. I'd rather pluck out my fingernails at a geriatric pace.
I loathe it when people (myself included) use prayer as an excuse for inaction. If you don't want to do something just say you'd rather not do it - in love, of course (probably best to leave the whole tweezer part out). But I get it. "Praying about it" sounds much nicer. And more spiritual.
Recently, I've been giving a ton of thought to prayer and its' purpose. I often wonder how my futile words change a God that doesn't seem to be changeable. I, in fact, find comfort in that fact that He does not change.
But we cannot ignore the fact that there are passages in scripture that clearly support the idea that our prayers may have an affect on God and His course of action. For example, in Exodus 32, Moses prays for mercy on the rebellious Israelites and God hears and alters his original plan to destroy them for their idolatry. In the New Testament, I Peter 3:12 says "for the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer."
On the flip side, there are a myriad of passages that speak of God's sovereignty over all things and that the order of the universe and all that goes on within it has been preordained by Him alone since the beginning of time. Malachi 3:6 says "I, the Lord, do not change." James tells us that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (vs. 1:17).
Wrap your head around that one, right? Bottom line. I don't get how it all works and probably never will, this side of glory. It's one of the great mysteries of faith.
What I DO know is that scripture commands us to pray and to do so often. Paul tells us to "pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17). He also tells the Philippians (vs. 4:6) "do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God." Prayer brings us closer to Him, brings us a sense of peace and changes US, His followers.
I pray daily (sometimes hourly, sometimes minutely) for patience in dealing with my girls. So when I find live snails tucked nice and cozy in every bed and crib in their dollhouse (yes, I said snails and yes, I said I have GIRLS), I am more apt to be patient in my response. If I am struggling with gossip, consistent prayer that I would keep my mouth shut, usually keeps my mouth shut. Because I am bringing these specific requests to Him often, they are always fresh in my mind. God keeps them there. Accountability on steroids.
Same goes in my prayer for others. If I am praying for Dave daily, I will treat him differently. I will be a more loving, attentive and Godly wife. If I am praying for a friend, I will be a better friend. I will think of those that I pray for more often, respond and be more aware of their needs. And somehow God uses all that to bring glory to Himself. I don't understand how it all works together and I look forward to asking Him one day but for now, I hang it on my spiritual coatrack and have peace that it brings about change in my life.
And thank goodness God does not grant ALL our requests as we ask for them. Ryan Seacrest would most definitely be out of work (sorry, but the guy BUGS) and I would living in Salt Lake City.