I think some of my prayers aren’t fair. They are not reasonable to ask of God.
By way of giving a few examples of the kinds of prayers I mean…
Is it fair to pray for help on a test if you don’t study?
Is it fair to pray for friends if you don’t take care of the relationships you have?
Is it fair to pray that your kids will be well behaved if you don’t teach them how to act?
Is it fair to pray for provision for the future if you don’t steward well what you have today?
Is it fair to pray for a better world if you don’t contribute to improvements in your corner of it?
Or, there’s the question of my latest prayer, the one that set me off on this line. Is it fair to pray for health and long life if I don’t take care of myself?
Think about it. How fair is it if I eat junk or without limits, never move or strain, don’t sleep well or enough, abuse caffeine, allow stress to set up camp… and then ask God for health and long life?
Truly, how fair and reasonable is it to ask the God of the universe for special favors that go against the laws of nature, and blatantly ignore the truth or science He’s already made available to me?
Surely I’m not the only one to ever do this. I invite you, try this uncomfortable shoe on to see if it fits. Fill in the blank. Is it fair to pray for ____ if I don’t ____?
Is it fair to pray for something if not willing to do the work? After a lot of reflection and some healthy conviction, consider this conclusion with me.
It doesn’t have to be fair; pray for it any way.
Fortunately, nowhere do I find in God’s Word that it classifies prayers themselves as reasonable or not. If God operated on a fairness criteria, we’d all be in trouble. Rather, every reference I find urges us to present all of our requests to God, to pray at all times and without ceasing.
God knows my lifelong tendency to struggle over willpower and to lack discipline for physical matters, and thankfully, He is still willing to hear my prayers for health and long life.
Stop sinning and do what’s right.
James 4:17 challenges me to no end. Simply put, if you know the right thing that you should do and you don’t do it, for you that is sin. Ouch.
As I read that and look back to the examples above – whether it is to prepare, look out for a friend, discipline children, save and avoid debt, help someone, or eat better and exercise – it’s wrong to know what is best to do and willingly choose against it. If you are a theologian (which I am not) and understand something less painful, please do help me off the hook.
Pray for both the outcome and for the motivation to get there.
I think sometimes we can focus so much on requesting a desired end state that we forget how much authority God has already given us to get there. His known, written will shows every indication of us having power over these things that can seem so hard to tackle in life.
So, as we are to go ahead and present requests, always, never stopping… maybe that very step is exactly what activates all it takes to achieve the outcome. Certainly it would be so if we explicitly asked for help with the hard part of the equation, the work part… the second blank.
As I read things, it feels like God definitely knew what He was doing. (Obviously.) He freely encourages us to ask, but at the same time, He challenges us to not obviously sin. While He doesn’t judge my prayer as fair, He does help me discern for myself what kind of prayer I am raising and therefore what I need to ask most.
His answer may just be that He’ll help with the outcome to the degree I am willing to do the work.
That’s why, along with the goal, I am going to ask Him for the guts and gumption to work hard.