man praying

Rethinking Prayer

By Doug Franklin June 3, 2019

A ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert like island.  The two survivors agreed that their only recourse was to pray to God.  However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.

The first thing they prayed for was food.  The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land, and he was able to eat its fruit.  The other man’s parcel of land remained barren.

After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife.  The next day, another ship was wrecked, and the only survivor was a woman who swam to his side of the land.  On the other side of the island, there was nothing.

Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes and more food.  The next day, like magic, all of these were given to him.  However, the second man still had nothing.

Finally, the first man prayed for a ship so that he and his wife could leave the island.  In the morning, a ship docked at his side of the island.

The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island.  He considered the other man unworthy to receive God’s blessings since none of his prayers had been answered.  As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a Voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”

“My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them,” the first man answered.  “His prayers were all unanswered and so he does not deserve anything.”  “You are mistaken!” the Voice rebuked him.  “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you would not have received any of my blessings.”  “Tell me,” the first man asked the Voice, “What did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”

“He prayed that all your prayers be answered.”

What is prayer?

Although the Bible says a lot about prayer, it never actually defines it.  Many people think of prayer as “talking with God,” but it’s much more.  Prayer is a two-way discussion where He talks and we listen, and we talk and He listens.  One definition says, “Prayer is a conversation of the heart with God.”  But it’s even more than that.  Prayer is honoring God for who He is, admitting our shortcomings to Him, thanking Him for what He does, and asking Him for specific things.  Yet there is a deeper level still.  Prayer is simply enjoying God’s Presence throughout our day.

The great mystery about prayer is that Jesus prayed all the time.  Why did He pray? Wasn’t He God?  Didn’t He already know what was going to happen?  Mark 1:35 says, “Jesus rose before dawn to pray to His Father.”  This was His daily habit.  When the disciples were in the boat and the great storm came, Jesus didn’t run to help them.  It says He stayed on shore, watching and praying for them, and in the ninth hour of their distress He went out to help them (John 14:23).  Why did He wait? Why didn’t He walk across the water in the first hour to help them?  Why did He think it would be more powerful for Him to pray instead of act?

How should I pray?

God invites us to pray.  Stop and consider the high honor of this invitation.   The God of the universe invites us to talk with Him at anytime and anywhere about anything and everything.  It’s incredible when you think about it.  God wants us to pour out our hearts to Him in every situation.  Nothing is too big or too small to bring before Him.  He encourages us to have a prayerful attitude in every situation.  He longs for us to be so mindful of His presence that we are to “pray without ceasing.”  Prayer is really God’s invitation for us to include Him in every activity and event in our lives.  Prayer is an act of obedience and humility.  It helps to remember that you should pray with J.O.Y.  This means your prayers should:

  1. Focus first and foremost on Jesus
  2. Then on the needs of Others
  3. And finally to pray for Yourself.

You can pray standing up or lying down.  You won’t get any brownie points for either kneeling or sitting when you pray.  It’s okay to pray with your eyes open or closed.  It doesn’t matter whether you pray aloud or silently.  God doesn’t care if your prayer is long or short, eloquent or inarticulate, or clever or clumsy.  God hears your heart.  The best part is that God promises to answer every prayer.  He answers our prayers one of three ways – “Yes” or “No” or “Wait.”  It’s like a traffic light:  Red for Stop!  Yellow for Caution!  Green for Go!  The problem is that He doesn’t always answer the way we want.  However, He does promise that when we pray in line with His will, we know for certain that we have the request we have asked of Him.

Prayer is not about changing God’s mind – it’s about us changing our actions.

So often we think that prayer is about changing God’s mind; but it’s really about changing our lives as God directs.  We ask Him over and over again hoping that He will do what we ask, never realizing that He has already answered by saying “No.”  His answer isn’t an indication for us to stop praying but an invitation for us to start changing what we are seeking. God knows what is best for us.  He sees the big picture.  If He says “No,” ask Him what direction He wants you to head.  If He says “Wait,” ask Him to show the right time to move forward.  If He says “Yes,” continue to pursue what God is giving you.

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About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More