Yesterday we talked about the don’t-pray-that trap.
Imagine a child comes to your house for a playdate. You ask if she wants a snack. She sits at the table and says, “Yes, please. I’d like some milk, but not spoiled, and in a cup, and about four ounces.”
What do you assume?
You assume she thinks you might get mad that she asked for milk instead of juice and punish her by giving her spoiled milk, or by pouring it on the table so she has to lap it up, or only a drop of milk so she’s still thirsty. Or maybe a gallon of milk and forcing her to drink the whole thing so she gets sick.
When we hedge our prayers, we’re entering that territory with God. I’ve seen several places where writers encourage us to “pray bold.” That we can’t possibly ask for something God couldn’t deliver. But sometimes we place limits on God.
In the above scenario, these would have been my standard prayer hedges: “Oh, and I know you probably will say no because milk is expensive, and I might spill it, and it might make me fat, and maybe someone else needs the milk more, and I really shouldn’t like milk in the first place. So whatever you want to give me is fine.”
That’s not prayer. I don’t know what that is, but it isn’t prayer. But the fear of asking for things is probably what drove me toward contemplation/centering rather than intercessory prayer. At least in contemplation, you don’t have to ask for things. And yet I’d keep getting prompted during contemplation to at least name a prayer intention.
At some point, I’d just gotten used to the idea that GOD, Inc. was not listening to my prayers, and that while the Kingdom of God really mattered a lot, I personally did not matter at all. If I had the audacity to ask for the wrong thing, therefore, I was calling attention to myself and being a pest, and I deserved whatever I got.
Hence I could “pray bold,” but not for myself. For others I’d ask for the most lavish blessings, but for me, nothing.
Come back tomorrow for part III.