You bow your head and speak to God. What do you expect to happen?
Perhaps you prayed for X. But maybe you didn’t get X.
What happened? Did anything happen? Why didn’t X happen?
Is it proof, as George Buttrick wondered, that prayer is nothing more than “a spasm of words lost in a cosmic indifference”? (15, Prayer, Philip Yancey)
Apart from getting out of God what I ask of Him, what should I expect when I pray?.
The Bible tells us that quite a lot of things take place when we pray. Consider with me just ten things that happen with you pray.
1. When you pray, God sees you.
“When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father … sees in secret …” (Matt. 6:6)
He is infinite and He not only notices/sees you, He does so with the fullness of His being. You are not just an indistinct movement in the periphery of His sight. He watches you. He’s observing you. He is taking note of you.
2. When you pray, God hears you.
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven …” (2 Chron. 7:14)
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (1 John 5:14)
3. When you pray, God delights in you.
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight.” (Prov. 15:8, NASU)
And for encouragement, here are a couple of snapshots that show us what God looks like when He is rejoicing … “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD … you shall be called My Delight Is in Her … as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:3-5). “The LORD your God … will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zeph. 3:17).
4. When you pray, God draws near you.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a)
God has worked a reciprocating component to His relationship to humans. When and as you draw near, He draws near to you.
Remember the story of the prodigal son? The aggrieved father is a picture of God the Father. When the son humbled himself and started out for home, ready to acknowledge that he had no right to ask for anything what picture do we find of the father? He ran to meet his son!
“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psa. 145:18)
5. When you pray, God rewards you.
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb. 11:6)
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6:6)
6. When you pray, God’s will is done.
“… pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:17-18)
It is God’s will that you seek Him. It is God’s will that you speak with Him.
We read this verse and wonder how we are to actually pull of praying “without ceasing”! But don’t let this escape your notice: God desires and wills that not one moment of your day pass without you living it in open, conscious, constant, conversational relationship to Him.
7. When you pray, God honors you.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:10)
Notice the directional cues here: “humble” = downward; “exalt” = upward.
This is not, of course, descriptive off spatial direction, but of spiritual, personal direction! You “humble” yourself by willingly exalting God to a place of greater respect, importance and priority than anything else … especially yourself. God exalts you by putting you in a place of greater standing, favor, love, purpose, and importance than you could have ever found on your own.
8. When you pray, you enter God’s presence.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.” (Heb. 10:19-20).
9. When you pray, you join God’s conversation.
When you pray, you step into a conversation that’s already going on. God within the confines of His Triune relationships is already talking about you before you lift your voice to Him.
“Christ Jesus is the one who died– more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Rom. 8:34)
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:26)
10. When you pray, you join in heaven’s worship.
Look what it is you find when, as you pray, you open the eyes of your heart: “… you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Heb. 12:22-24).
When you pray you do that which all who’ve gone before you would counsel you to do. When you pray you do that which you’d be doing if you could see everything as it actually exists. When you pray you do that which you’ll be doing forever.
You prayed for X. You didn’t get X.
But you got all this instead. Good deal? Or bad deal?
Is it worth coming to Him again? And again and again and again and …
If you wish, you can listen to the entire teaching here: prayer and expectations