I’m a nervous pray-er.
I don’t mean I’m nervous praying with other people; I mean that many times I’m nervous when I pray because I don’t know whether I’m praying for the right thing. It is as if sometimes my theology gets in the way of my prayers.
Let me explain.
I know, for example, that God is sovereign. As such, all the moments of our days are ordered, and even “a king’s heart is like channeled water in the Lord’s hand: He directs it wherever he chooses” (Prov. 21:1). I know, too, that God always acts in accordance with His will, and that His will is good and perfect even though we, as humans, might not understand how or why He makes the decisions He has made. His ways are not our ways, neither are his thoughts our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9).
These are things I know, and so these are things I bring with me to the closet of prayer. As a result, I find that I have the tendency to qualify my prayers. Maybe you know the feeling, too.
Let’s say that you have a big meeting coming up at work. It’s the kind of meeting where multiple things are coming together, maybe the summation of a big project or deal you’ve been working on. And you are nervous and anxious about this, so you pray:
Lord, for this meeting today, I pray that my proposal will be met favorably. At least, that is, if it’s your will. I hope it’s your will for it to go well. But if it’s not, then I pray that I would be able to handle it rightly.
That seems to me to be a very theologically informed prayer. Nothing wrong with that, except it’s almost like we are afraid to ask. But we should not be. We know this at some level – that we ought to have the faith to pray boldly – and yet still we struggle. But if you consider the reasons why we might be afraid to ask for something in other arenas of life, you quickly see that as Christians we really have nothing to fear. Here’s what I mean:
1. We do not fear the person.
One reason we might be afraid to ask for something is because we are afraid of the person we are asking. Perhaps our experience has told us that requests of this person are often met with anger, ridicule, or refusal. That they are too busy to listen to us or they are too self-occupied to consider the wants and needs of others. But this is not so with God.
Though we are to fear the Lord, we no longer have to be afraid of the Lord. This is, of course, because through Christ we have peace with Him:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in the hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:1-2).
Gloriously, we have been given access to God Almighty. And in His presence, we can stand not on our own merit, but fully confident of His grace. We no longer have anything to fear. Indeed, Jesus Himself told us that we ought to begin our prayers with a reflection of this reality, summed up in two, beautiful words: “Our Father…”
2. We do not fear the response.
Another reason we might be afraid to ask someone for something is because we are afraid of how they will respond. They might yell at us, call us ungrateful, tell us that we are arrogant or silly, or any other reaction. Or, based on our experience, we might just assume the answer to be “no” because it always is. So of course we are afraid to ask. Or we don’t ask at all.
But it is not so with God. That’s not to say that God is our “yes man”, agreeing to everything we ask. He is not. He loves us too much to do that. God will give us not necessarily what we desire, but what is best. This is why we must not only trust in the power of God to answer, but in the wisdom of God to give the right answer. In either case, though, we should not fear the response:
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him (Matt. 7:11).
God is a good Father who knows how to give good gifts, even if they might not seem like good gifts to us in the moment.
3. We do not fear our reputation.
One final reason we might be afraid to ask is because we are too concerned with our own reputation. Asking for something is, in essence, an admitting of our need. This is a humbling thing. When we have to go to someone to ask for something – anything – we are implicitly acknowledging that we need help in some way. And that’s the very reason we aren’t willing to ask at all – it’s because we don’t want to appear weak.
But we have been freed of this preoccupation with ourselves. If we are Christians, then we already know all too well about our own weakness. If we didn’t, then we wouldn’t be in Christ:
For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6).
The regular asking in prayer is actually a helpful reminder of just how needy we all remain. We are not self-sufficient but instead are entirely dependent on God’s grace.
So ask, Christian. Seek, Christian. Knock, Christian. And do so because you aren’t afraid of your Father, you aren’t afraid of His answer, and you aren’t afraid of your own need.