I still remember standing in front of church a few years back
having a discussion with some farmers about whether to pray for
rain. The majority thought it was a good idea. Whatever their
personal beliefs about the effectiveness of such prayer, the
majority were not about to show any doubt in front of their
One man, however, risking the ridicule of the more pious,
stepped up to the plate. "Why pray? God's going to do what God's
going to do anyway."
That discussion raised prayer's most fundamental question: "What
is the purpose of prayer?" The majority believed that their prayers
might influence God to pay attention to their plight and send the
rain they wanted. The minority believed that what he wanted didn't
matter to God, and he would have to accept whatever God already had
in mind to do with his rain.
Both, however, approached the situation with one of the most
basic misunderstandings about prayer. The purpose of prayer is not
to inform God about our needs nor to influence God to change his
mind about meeting our needs. The purpose of prayer, fundamentally,
is to get us to change and want what our good God wants to give
In this regard, my prayer has changed radically in the last part
of my life. I used to pray that I would get assigned to the parish
I most wanted, that I would win the lottery or that I would get an
"A" on a test.
I was usually disappointed in the short run, but in the long run
God gave me all I needed and then some. The parish I least wanted
turned out to be better. I didn't win the lottery, but I have never
been in serious want, either. I didn't always get an "A," but I did
graduate with pretty good grades. All in all, I have to admit that
if I had gotten all that I asked for, my life would not be as full
as it is today.
My prayer now is more about asking God to help me trust him with
the things that happen in my life. My prayer now is not about
trying to change God or asking him to change my circumstances,
knowing that great blessings often lie hidden in circumstances that
only appear to be bad at the present time.
When you pray, do you ask God to change and conform to your
will, or do you ask God to change you to conform to his will? This
change of focus could radically change your prayer life for the