“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” So wrote A. W. Tozer some 55 years ago. Allow me to add to that with I hope Tozer’s blessing: “What we think about God shapes how we pray.”
Jesus in Luke 11:5-8 presents us with a picture of God as a loving Father who readily gives good gifts to his children. So we, with shameless audacity, should ask for them. With all the needs that seem to flood our lives we grab on to this idea of God and, wow, do we ask! In fact, such asking consumes and almost completely defines our praying. We come to God with a long list of suggestions for what he should do in response to the particular needs of our own lives and the needs of those who make up our spiritual family.
When this view of God is primary to our thinking, our prayers become reactive, seldom moving beyond our immediate need-based requests.
There’s another picture of God that when taken seriously takes us beyond reactive to proactive or even visionary praying. Psalm 23 presents the Lord as our shepherd and in light of that reality, needs move from primary to secondary. In fact, in him we “lack nothing.” Why? Because he is primary. He makes us lie down; he leads us; he guides us along the right paths.
Don’t there need to be more times in our prayer lives that we simply stop asking for things and favours and start seeking and asking for him? “Lord, guide us, lead us. Help us as we plan. Show us where we should go. Show us who we should be.” And don’t we need to pray the same types of things for others? This kind of visionary praying does a lot more listening and surrendering and worshipping than asking and demanding and worrying.
Wasn’t this more the kind of praying the church at Antioch was doing in Acts 13:1-3? Not a bad model to follow!