When I was a child, I used to pray for things. I wanted a new bicycle so I prayed for it. I prayed a lot for that bicycle but I never got it. As a child, I thought that one used prayer to pray to receive things, to ask for certain outcomes and to meet your desires. It made me think that If I didn’t get what I wanted, it meant I was either praying to the wrong God, or that there wasn’t a God who would answer my prayer.
The Difference Between Prayer and Footwork
I asked my parents for the bicycle for my birthday. They said, ‘no.’ And they made me work for it. I had to do daily and weekly chores, until I had earned enough money to buy the bicycle. And although it took almost a year, I finally bought that bicycle.
But I was still confused. If I had to do the footwork, what was prayer all about anyway?
It took me until adulthood when I learned that everything I thought about prayer was wrong. I had a pediatric understanding of God and prayer. I learned that my former belief was in something called the “Santa Claus God.” That is, a God who would satisfy my greedy demands, like the list of goodies a child wants on Christmas morning.
I was expecting God to provide something for me that I needed to do for myself.
This was not the correct use of prayer.
Instead, I should have been asking in prayer for:
- The strength to do the work.
- The ability to do what was necessary.
- To have the perseverance to see it through.
In graduate school, I wasn’t sure I could hack the discipline of the academic rigors of school. I was despondent and ready to give up. My academic advisor posed the question to me, “how badly do you want to graduate and what are you willing to do for your success?” Truthfully, I wasn’t sure. But I knew if I wanted to graduate, I had to do the difficult footwork to make it happen.
I heard the famous story about Socrates who met a young boy who asked Socrates to tell the secret of success. Socrates invited the boy to swim with him in the lake. Socrates overpowered the boy and held him under the water until the boy could no longer struggle. Then Socrates pulled the boy up from under the water, allowing him to draw air.
Socrates said, “What did you most want when you were under there?
The boy said, “Air.”
Socrates said, “When you want success as desperately as you want air, then you will have it.”
The Value of Prayer
And then I understood the value of prayer. We don’t use prayer to change an outcome or to change God. We use prayer to change us so we can face and do what needs to be done so we can achieve our goals.
Let me know if you’ve ever faced a challenge and learned the value of prayer!