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Prayer for Small Things|
Q. Is it wrong to pray for a broken toe, arthritis, mental depression or other things that seem like small problems in our lives? Our pastor made some negative comments about praying for "insignificant things." He even called depression a "sin." He says we should ask God to use our suffering as a witness to others instead.
Matthew 18 Conflict-Resolution
If you have a controversy with your pastor you must go see him - or bring it to his attention through a personal phone call, a written note or email - in accordance with Matthew 18: 15-17. Be ready to sit down with him to make sure that what you heard is what he meant.
Pray about Everything
Having said that, we don't see anything in Scripture that limits what Christians should pray about, although it might be wise to look at the things Paul and the apostles prayed for as a model for us.
Still, all through the Bible we are told to pray about everything. We are told we don't have some things because we didn't ask for it (James 4:2). In Matthew 7:7 we are told to keep asking, seeking, and knocking about our needs. The Apostle Paul advises us to "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God"… (Philippians 4:6, NASB).
The Scope of Prayer
Prayer is our direct conversation with the God of the universe. He is a personal God. So make it from your heart and do not approach it lightly. He really is listening. Prayer is how we get wisdom about certain things in our lives (James 1:5). Prayer is how backsliders are restored to fellowship (James 5:16-20). Prayer is how we find the strength to do things (Jude 1:20&Matt. 26:41). We are told that prayer is how the sick are cured - even through doctors and hospitals (James 5:13-15). In fact, prayer is how we do things that seem impossible (Mark 11:23-24).
Hindrances to Prayer
Of course, there are hindrances to having our prayers heard. Although we may wish to set these aside we can't ignore them. The Bible won't allow it. Please review them before moving on:
1. For one thing we need to ask for things according to his will (1 John 5:14).
2. Sometimes there may be sin in our lives. The Lord warns he will not hear us when we are willfully sinning (John 9:31).
3. There are times when we are out-of-sync with God. The New Living Translation says it this way: "But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted" (John 15:7). How can His words be in us if we don't study, read or memorize Scripture?
4. Some Christians pray with wrong motives. "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:3). So asking for a Ferrari or a McMansion may not be God's will for your life.
5. Perhaps we are not praying with faith. Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24).
6. We need to be persistent. "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up" (Luke 18:1).
7. We need to pray in Jesus' name: "If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:14). This does not mean we should be superstitious about the name "Jesus." It means that we specifically ask Jesus to represent us before the Father in heaven.
8. Don't forget that sometimes the answer is "no." For example, the Apostle Paul asked God to remove the thorn in his flesh. But, God told him His grace was sufficient (2 Cor. 12:7-9).
9. At other times we may harbor Unforgiveness toward someone: …"and when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins" (Mark 11:25).
10. We could have marriage problems. Peter warned husbands to gently consider the needs of their wives so that "nothing will hinder your prayers" (Peter 3:7).
11. We may be acting selfishly toward those less fortunate. "If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered" (Proverbs 21:13).
12. Perhaps we have "idols of the heart" in our lives. This is a spooky admonition. Ezekiel hears the Lord cry out,
"Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?" (Ezekiel 14:3).
Idols of the heart could mean our obsession with sports, the television set, a computer, or our retirement accounts.
This is just a representative summary of things that could hinder our prayers before God. We need to review it from time to time to reassess our prayer life. We can't just pray "willy nilly" for anything we want without considering the qualitative state of our prayer life.
Value Judgments&Personal Experience
When you are young, praying for things like arthritis may seem insignificant or silly to you. My grandfather used to complain that his arthritis felt like a bad toothache all over his body, and I used to chuckle. Now that I suffer from it I would add that it's comparable to having the worst case of the flu you can imagine complete with joint and muscle aches - with no relief in sight - day in and day out, year after year. Now I fully understand what my grandfather was saying and I am not laughing any more.
This can also be true about depression. Suffering long term depression from tragedy and difficult circumstances or illnesses, and even bio-chemical imbalances, may be valid. The fact that you suffer depression is not the issue - by nature humankind will suffer.
But, I am aware that severe pain and disease can and will take over a person's life in such a devastating way that they will never be the same. What is important when this occurs is that we bring our suffering to God in prayer and trust Him to fulfill His promise for the time when we will have new bodies free from sin, pain and death.
Please be patient with your pastor. Remember to go to him as stated in Matthew 18. It would be inappropriate (i.e. gossip), to simply talk about him to others without going to him privately. With the Lord's help, time, age and experience will soften those "rough edges." If he is a godly man the Lord may even use you to help "refine" him as "silver is refined" (Psalm 66:10). Who knows?
Arthur, Kay. 1996. Lord teach me to pray. New York: Walker&Co.
Jeremiah, David. 2004. The prayer matrix. Sisters, OR Multnomah.
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