Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize just how much my thoughts, beliefs and actions affect my prayer life, and just how often I limit God in my prayers because of my thoughts, beliefs and actions. The way I think and what I believe about God and myself will determine not only how I live but also how I pray.
If you’ve noticed your prayers seem a little empty lately, and you’d like to free up God to work in big ways in your life, I’ve discovered three ways to stop limiting God in my prayers. Since taking these steps in my spiritual walk, it’s been amazing to see how much deeper my talks with God have become.
Ask Him in Faith
When there’s something on your heart that’s really important to you, it can be so difficult to let go of it and trust God to work. I know I’ve struggled with the thought, “What if God doesn’t give me what I’m asking Him for?” Yet God has been teaching me over and over again this past year just how much He can be trusted to give me “exceedingly, abundantly above all that I could ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). My imagination is so limited when compared to His imagination, and my requests seem very small compared to the big answers He gives.
He’s also taught me that if something is important to me, it’s important to Him. He either wants to give me what I’m asking Him for in His timing, or He wants to use my request to strengthen my faith and teach me to desire Him above all else.
I’ve realized through all of this just how much I limit God with my thinking. I doubt, I worry, I bargain, I beg Him to do what I think He needs to do on my behalf, but by doing all of that, I don’t open up myself to receive what He may be trying to give me, and I certainly don’t free His hands to provide me with what I actually need.
The next time you start to pray, I encourage you to ask yourself, “Am I praying in faith, really believing He will answer me, or is my heart full of doubt right now?”
Thank Him in Advance
Thanking God for the answer before it comes has been a huge lesson for me to wrap my mind around, and I’ll admit that I’m not always good at it. It takes a lot of faith to pray this way, but it also expresses a deep belief that we’re going to be OK with whatever answer He gives us because we know His answer will be best and within His will for us.
By thanking Him in advance for the answers we’ve been praying for — whatever those answers may look like when we receive them — we’re showing that we trust God and honor His wisdom and sovereignty. It shows our belief that He already has the answer, that He’s already at work behind the scenes, and that He will answer us when the time is right. It also shows our gratitude for His provision, and our faith that His provision is exactly what we need, even if what He’s provided looks different than we had imagined.
The next time you start to make a request of God, turn your request into a prayer of thanksgiving for how God is going to work in the situation and how He is going to provide the perfect answer in His perfect timing.
Wait on Him in Peace
Asking in faith and thanking Him in advance are challenging things to do, but when we’ve asked and thanked Him, the most difficult part comes next: waiting in peace. Waiting in peace means that after we’ve said “amen,” we’ve left everything with Him. We’re not holding on to anything. We aren’t tying His hands and limiting His work by worrying or taking matters into our own hands when we don’t see Him working fast enough.
When we peacefully wait, we are again demonstrating that we trust His answer to our prayers. We’ve asked Him in faith and thanked Him in trust, but we haven’t placed any expectation on His answer except that it will be for His glory and our ultimate good.
Waiting in peace is an action that follows right thinking and right believing about God. When our minds are set on Him, and our hearts are tuned to His voice, we will be able to go peacefully throughout our days as we wait on Him to work, trusting that His work will be in His timing and in line with what we actually need.
The next time you start to worry over something you’ve already prayed about, remind yourself that you’ve given it to God and He is working it out. Thank Him for His work behind the scenes, and ask for His peace to guard your heart and mind as you wait (Philippians 4:7).
If you’ve been struggling with your prayers, don’t give up. Keep asking Him in faith, keep thanking Him in advance and keep expecting Him to answer. When you do those things, He’s free to do His thing: give you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.