Prayer is a tough discipline to consistently pursue. To be honest, I still don’t quite understand it. Back when I never prayed, good and bad things happened just like they do now. Loving and following Christ clearly doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen, and it’s slightly unnerving to recognize that God doesn’t always seem to be concerned with our comfort and safety as much as we wish He was… but that’s a different topic for another post.
As I’ve slowly become a more prayerful follower of Christ, I’ve recognized the next step of spiritual maturity: to remember what I’ve prayed for. It might sound a little childish, but it affects more than you might think.
When I’m still standing after a storm has passed, remembering that I asked God to help me make it through that storm takes my perspective from “Whew, glad that’s over!” to “God, You are still good!” As a result, my relationship with Him grows deeper and I gain more trust in His love for me.
Storms will keep rolling through. Even having our prayers answered won’t keep us from getting wet from time to time. And it doesn’t mean that nothing about our lives will ever change, sometimes painfully. But a little pain is sometimes the only way we learn and grow.
Acknowledging that God has answered a certain prayer (however ordinarily it may have happened) is evidence and confirmation that God is listening and that He cares. That evidence is what helps me trust Him more. It eases my mind when more storm clouds start to roll in. Having prayer amnesia, on the other hand, means every storm will be just as stressful as the last. I’d be more inclined to believe I’m all alone and all hope is lost rather than hunker down and pray with confidence that the storm will blow over like all the others, leaving me still stronger and wiser than before.
When ten lepers cried out for Jesus to heal them, He told them to go and present themselves to the priests. On their way, they realized they had become clean. But only one of them came back to thank Jesus for what He had done. Only one made the effort to look back and acknowledge where the blessing came from. All ten had an encounter with God. But you could argue the one leper who came back was the only one who gained a real relationship with God.
It’s great to have the courage to ask God for something… even better to move with the hope that what we asked for would be done. But there’s a final step that breaks us out of the realm of being consumer Christians, only focusing on what we need next, to gaining a real relationship with Jesus. And that is to acknowledge how God has responded to our needs by making the effort to come back and fall at His feet like the one leper did in Luke 17:16.
You might be wondering how Cheez-Its fit into this…
Parents provide everything for their kids in the first several years. But part of what marks that kid’s maturity is for him or her to finally acknowledge that they’ve been loved in a whole lot of ways they’ve previously overlooked.
I would occasionally ask my mom to buy a box of Cheez-Its the next time she went grocery shopping. A day or two later, I would see a brand new box of cheddar jack Cheez-Its in the pantry. In that moment, my first thought wasn’t to feel loved and thankful for how my mom took care of me. It was about how I couldn’t wait to eat the entire box all by myself as I watched TV after school. I ignored that what I asked my mom for, she willingly gave me.
Ungrateful? Yes. But a consumer mentality is understandable from a child. As I matured, my mom hoped I would acknowledge her cheesy love for me. It’s no longer all about what I can take from her, but also how I choose to acknowledge her love.
So if you pray, here’s a few questions for you:
- How has God answered some of your recent prayers?
- How does that make you feel?
- And what do you feel is the right response? (You have two models to choose from: the leper, or the adolescent Cheez-It consumer.)