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The Prayer You Meant to Pray

My prayer life is pretty hot and cold—and by hot and cold, I mean
sometimes I go weeks without intentionally praying to God, and
other times I get frustrated that He’s not immediately answering my
petty prayers. There really is no in-between for me. Most days, I’m pretty good at praying for friends or family who are in
dire situations, and I’m always quick to ask God for forgiveness when I
goof up. But to be quite honest with you, and with Him, I still suck at
praying.

I’ve read the New Testament many times, and one thing continually frustrates me: Jesus was a much better prayer than I am.

First of all, Jesus would routinely go off and pray alone, in the
wilderness, for long amounts of time. My prayer life is typically jammed
into the 45 seconds after I wake up
before I jump out of bed and decide I need to shower and get ready for
my busy day. Or, it gets crammed into commercial breaks of my favorite
sports talk shows. There is no escaping to pray—and there are no lengthy
periods of time
where I enjoy my Father’s presence and take in His wisdom for my heart.

It’s tempting to think: "Well, Jesus was God-made-flesh, right? So, He’s supposed to do things we
weren’t able to, right? He lived a perfect life, and we can’t do that.
This is probably just one of those deals."

Unfortunately for us, Scripture seems to say otherwise. Every time
Jesus took His disciples somewhere to pray, I believe He expected them
to pray, too. The Garden of Gethsemane comes to mind, especially as it’s
one of my favorite scenes in the Bible. He asks His disciples to look
out for him—and I believe this
includes praying for Him—as He goes forward on His own and prays
Himself. They’re worn out and tired, and can’t keep their eyes open (I
can relate
to that), but Jesus doesn’t take that as a good excuse. He’s upset; His
words even sound as if He is hurt when they can’t stay awake.

Jesus was much better at His method of prayer than I could ever be.
But it’s not just that. The content of His prayers blows me away too.
Listen to the words He utters in that famous Gethsemane prayer: “My
Father, if it is possible, may this cup
be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will. … My Father, if
it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may
Your will be done.”

Let’s compare to my typical prayer: “Hey. God. It’s me, Zak. Could
you please send me a
sign that you still love me? I’m feeling a bit self-conscious today.
Also, a wife would be cool. And maybe some money, so I can afford to
give some back to you. Thanks, peace.”

Jesus’ prayer is so different, it shocks and amazes me. His prayer ends, “May Your will
be done,” and mine ends, “Could you please just do it my way?”

But in Paul’s letter to the Romans, we read
an interesting verse that says there may be hope for us yet. It even
explains why sometimes we’re disappointed at the results of our
prayers.

"The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what
we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through
wordless groans" (Romans 8:26).

The translation I memorized one summer at camp said,
“ … intercedes for us with groans that words simply could not express.”

See Also

What a powerful gift for those who receive the blessing of salvation.
When the Spirit rushes upon us, He’s got our back in our prayer lives.
When I don’t know what to pray, the Spirit intercedes on my behalf with
the Father, finishing my prayers—and I believe that His prayer is so
often, “Father, may your will be done.”

Without even knowing it, because the Spirit intercedes for me, my prayers are ending with “but Thy will be done.”

Asking for more money, more material blessings, more spiritual
blessings—all of those prayers should be offensive to the God who has
poured out unending blessings upon us already. But because of the
Spirit’s intercession for us, we don’t have to worry when we don’t know
what to pray for. We just have to trust that, in "His
will be done," God is offering what is best for us.

I know I should be praying more—for more forgiveness, more
humility, more desire to be like Him. But I also know the Spirit is
constantly interceding with the Father on my behalf for these things.
Its work is ever-present, and ever-powerful in my life, and for that, I am truly thankful.

This article originally appeared as a column on RELEVANTmagazine.com.

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