Prayer is my number-one go-to for everything. When my marriage is suffering, I pray. When financial crisis hits, I pray. When I'm struggling in my parenting, I pray. When I offer a list of suggestions to my readers, you can bet that the first item is prayer.
I would consider myself somewhat of a prayer warrior, not because I pray well or long (so-called 'Nehemiah prayers' my usual style), but because I have an active prayer life. I'm willing to pray about anything, any time, and anywhere. And I know that many other Christians are right there with me in their eagerness and willingness to pray.
But even though I've prayed frequently for many years now, it wasn't until very recently that the Lord opened my eyes to the fact that my prayers were missing a key ingredient. Honestly, I was shocked to learn that I was neglecting something so important!
You see, when people asked me to pray, whether it was for healing from an illness, for respite from a financial squeeze, or for something that they needed, I was only too happy to rush into prayer and as that God would heal/provide/supply. And I would try to pray frequently for those same needs until the Lord took care of the situation.
But there was something clearly missing from my prayers.
I had neglected to pray that, until the Lord chose to remove the hardship, He would deepen their faith in the waiting. Maybe you've been faithful to pray for people's spiritual growth in addition to asking the Lord to remove their thorns, but I never thought to do so until just a few months ago.
If God allows us to go through trials to refine us (and He does - see Zechariah 13:9), and I don't pray that the trials at hand would work in us the refinement He has planned, I'm missing a crucial part of prayer. Hardships are, by far, the biggest cause of spiritual growth in my own life, and I've heard others say the same.
So, I've started praying differently. While I still ask that the Lord would bring relief from hardship, I first ask that He would bring about increased faith, spiritual growth, and a closer relationship with Him before I ask for Him to remove the trial.
I pray this way both for myself and for others. And you know what? It's transformed both my prayer life and my entire spiritual walk. I now look forward to seeing how the Lord will increase my faith and the faith of those I'm praying for. That doesn't mean I enjoy trials, but there's a new sweetness to trials when they come that helps to cover the bitterness of hardship.
Maybe you've been praying only for the removal of difficulty, just like I was. Will you be bold with me and ask for the Lord to bring about spiritual growth while He allows your hardship to last? It's not an easy way to pray, but I've been amazed at how the Lord has grown me as a result of this way of praying!
Your turn: How do you normally pray? Are you like I was - just asking for the removal of a hardship - or are you already going deeper and praying for spiritual growth while the trial lasts?