My prayer life has been divided. Not so much in a division of what I pray for, but I have experienced the complete opposites of the spectrum concerning how prayer actually works. We all say that prayer is important and that prayer works, but what actually happens during prayer? Do we change God’s mind on the issue at hand? Is it just a tool that God uses to draw us to himself? Here are some of the options:
1. CONVINCE. Many prayer warriors out there believe that when we pray, we convince God of something that he isn’t fully convinced of yet. Most wouldn’t believe that they twist God’s arm into something, but by the way we pray, we convey a belief that God wouldn’t get to that if we didn’t either remind him or continually annoy him. By organizing prayer chains, exerting passion into our prayers, or repeating the request often, we reveal a belief that if we can just get the formula right, God will answer our prayers. But can finite beings change the infinite’s mind concerning anything?
2. CONFORM. The other side of the spectrum is that prayer really doesn’t change God, the process of praying actually changes us. In those moments of prayer, God has our attention and conforms our thoughts and desires to match his. The whole tension present in our life was an invitation from God to get us onto our knees not so we would speak, but so we would listen. In these moments. God changes our mind on the subject, and thus, our prayers have been answered since they now align with what God wanted in the first place.
3. CONSPIRE. I have a different approach. What if prayers weren’t meant to convince or to conform, but to conspire? We often think of “conspire” as people working together to do something wrong. One of the definitions means “to act or work together toward the same result or goal.” The process of prayer is a collaboration. It is both speaking and listening. It is both sharing our desires and hearing God’s desires. It is an attempt at convincing and his process of conforming. Evidences of both are found in Scripture.
Whichever camp you might naturally fit in, a place of agreement must be that God is God. He is in control. No matter how bad we ask him something, if it is not his will, it won’t happen. Jesus‘ prayer in the garden is a great example. In desperation so great that blood was spilling from his sweat glands, he prayed and asked if there was another way other than the cross. He prostrated himself, prayed fervently and repeatedly, and even recruited a prayer team, but he ended his prayers with a simple line that we would be wise to utilize: “Not my will, but yours be done.” When we pray, we ask passionately, but at the end of the day, we experience comfort that it is not our will that we expect to be done or even want to be done. His way will always be better.