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The “Best” Way To Pray

Jacob McWhorter fell into an abandoned well and couldn’t escape. First he bargained with God: If You’ll get me out of here, I’ll do thus and so for You. Didn’t work. He tried bribery: I’ll give You all of my money. Didn’t work. Finally he said, Well, Jesus, it looks like I’m gonna die. I put my trust in You. I’d like to escape, but whether I do or not, it’s O.K. And a farmer just “happened” to drive up to the old well, looked in it and pulled the guy out! So there you have it. The way to teach folks how to pray effectively is to push them into a well.

Seriously, how should we pray? And since God already knows what we need, why does He insist that we pray? What’s the point?

God ordained prayer to enable us to develop a personal, intimate, trusting relationship with our Spiritual Dad—to bond with Him. How do we do that? By spending a lot of time doing things together and conversing. That’s right—conversing. This is not to say that we’re to fill the air with chatter or tell God the latest joke. After all, He already knows the punch line. It doesn’t mean that we should begin the day with our laundry list. Jesus told us that He already knows our needs and that He’s turned off by our greeds.

Anabel and I taught our kids that it was important to finish strong. How you finish will define you in the minds of most people. That’s how they tend to remember you. After all, how do you remember Richard Nixon? Pete Rose? Hezekiah, King of Judah, ruled well. Most of his predecessors have an asterisk beside their name in God’s Record Book: *But he did evil in the sight of the Lord.” Not so with Hezekiah; his meritorious record is a breath of fresh air: “He did right in the sight of the Lord. He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah (female sex idol). He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it…He trusted in the Lord, so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, or among those who were before him. For he clung to the Lord…” (2 Kings 18:3-6). Can you imagine how much courage it took to destroy Moses’ bronze serpent! That would’ve been more scandalous to them than bulldozing the Washington Monument today. What a dear brother! Read his inspiring story in 2 Kgs. 18-19.

But sad to say, Hezekiah didn’t finish strong. His prayer life in his last days (recorded in chapter 20) reveals that he fumbled the ball. When he was on his deathbed, Isaiah told him that God wanted to reward him by taking him home to be with Him. Hezekiah pitched a fit! He held a pity-party with an invitation list of one—himself. He couldn’t imagine anything better than being King of Judah, and so he begged for no term limits. So God gave him 15 more years. Someone says, “Bill, that seems like a reasonable request. What’s the problem?” By Hezekiah’s bargaining for his life, he later sired Judah’s most wicked king, Manasseh, who reigned 55 years. Millions who were born and died under Manasseh’s reign suffered untold misery and he “seduced them to do evil more than the nations” (2 Kgs. 21:9). Folks, we must put begging God to do it our way behind us, present our wishes, then accept His will for us. Some label this faithless prayer that displeases God, yet Jesus prayed, “Not My will, but Yours” in His darkest hour—Gethsemane. I’m comfortable with that model.

Today, many teachers focus on how to have your way with God. I’ll not judge their motive; that’s God’s job. Let’s credit them with meaning well. They seem to believe it pleases God if they bug Him till he grants their demand. But isn’t this like undisciplined child who knows he can wear down his parents’ resistance by crying, threatening, accusing, using false guilt, or whatever it takes to get them to do it his way? Tell me, would you want to have kids who ragged on you to meet their demands till they drove you up the wall? You’d do your shopping while they were in school. Yes, I know Jesus’ story about the midnight door-knocker (Lk. 11:5-8), but I also know the one about the folks who used a battering ram on God’s door—Israel! God’s response to their insistent demands in Ps. 106:13-15 does it for me:

“They quickly forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but craved intensely in the wilderness, and [tested] God in the desert. So He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul“. That’s one of the most sobering events in the Bible. He “did it their way.” He gave them what they demanded, but their souls dried up—they became spiritual prunes. As a counselor, I’ve seen many Christians who became bitter because they couldn’t get God to do it their way. Israel’s attitude was What have You done for me today, God! Folks, we don’t have to reinvent the spiritual-maturity wheel. These stories reveal that it doesn’t please God to demand that He do things your way. Wise Christians learn from Israel’s mistakes (1 Cor. 10:11).

God proved at Calvary that He has our best interests at heart. Look at Jesus hanging on the cross for you when you wouldn’t have given Him the time of day! And someone’s going to tell me that I can’t trust a God like that to continue to act in my best interest? Absurd! A demanding attitude makes me god. I’m trying to control Him. I’m implying that I possess the universe of knowledge and that my way is superior to anything He may conjure up. What person praying demanding prayers 2,000 years ago would have dreamed to ask God to provide a crucified Savior for us? Only a loving Father would have initiated such a gracious, altruistic act! We can trust Him, people. Calvary’s love didn’t come with a one-day warranty. He still loves you as intensely as He did that Friday. He’s for you! His plans for you are better than anything you could ever dream up (Jer. 29:11, LB; Eph. 2:10)

God, through providing Christ as your Savior, Forgiver, Identity-Changer, Lord, and Life, has provided you with everything you need to enjoy a loving, intimate, trusting, moment-by-moment relationship with your Dad (Abba). He longs for you two to have prayer times such as this: “Just You and me Dad. It’s really great to have the kind of relationship that I have with You. Without Your initiative it never could have happened. You’re truly awesome! Knowing that You’re in control, that the devil is not a loose cannon that can spring surprises on You, that when his time is up You’re going to clean his plow without getting out of your recliner, and that You’re lovingly conforming me to the family image gives me peace and rest. Like You say, It’s so awesome it’s beyond human understanding. You’re my absolute number one Hero. I want to ‘go’ up to be just like You. Thanks for being my best Friend.”

About the Author

Bill founded Lifetime Guarantee Ministries to encourage people to experience the reality of Christ as life. His transparent, humorous, down-to-earth style and sense of humor made him one of the most effective teachers of his time. He communicated with great clarity the full extent of what God accomplished in Christ and what that means for the Christian identity. Although Bill passed away in June 2011, his messages are timeless and will continue to impact generations to come.