Small Prayers and Weak Faith

I was unsure of what to expect when I started reading “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson. He talks about dreaming big, praying hard and thinking long. When he talks about thinking long he is talking about prayers that are long-term, often ones we won’t see the answer to in our lifetime. He contends that if there are things we want, we should pray hard for them.

At first I was uneasy because this felt like “health and wealth.” However, everything he said lines up with Scripture. He states our motives must be in line with God’s word and his will. He continues that just because we pray, God is not under compulsion to answer. So my discomfort was not from this.

I read on but was still uneasy. I continued to pray about what I was reading and it slowly became clear. His way of thinking felt alien because I was doing the opposite of what he was advocating. I was dreaming small, praying little, and thinking short. I began to understand the discomfort. I approach God in prayer like I’d approach a tempermental, busy father. I try to find the opportune moment to share my request with God. A time when he’s most likely to hear my prayer and answer it. I also don’t want to be disappointed so I don’t ask for much. When I do ask, I ask for that which won’t inconvenience Him too much.

As I wrestled through this, I was reminded by a friend of several passages that speak to this:

You do not have because you do not ask and you do not have because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

I often wrestle with the motives of my prayers. There is one side where it is right and can glorify God. On the other, I could be wanting it out of greed or covetness. So because I can’t ferret out my motives, I just don’t pray. However, nowhere in that verse does it say to determine your motives before you ask. It says ask. God will sort out my motives and respond accordingly. If they’re selfish, then God will reveal that as I to continue to pray about it.

Jesus taught his disciples that if flawed humans want to give good gifts to their children, then how much more will God give good gifts to his children. God is not a busy Father that can’t be bothered. He wants to hear our prayers and give us the things that we want which will draw us closer to Him and make us more like his son.

The writer of Hebrews tells us to “boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence.” I have memorized this and other verses but I tend to treat them as a metaphor of a metaphor. These verses explan how we are to approach God in prayer. They are prescriptive. But I strip these words of there power by treating them more like poetry. They are pretty and convey a nice thought but that is as far as it goes.

Batterson says near the end of the book: “if you have the faith to dream big, pray hard and think long, there is nothing God loves more than proving his faithfulness.” This cuts to the heart of the issue. My faith is flagging and as a consequence I don’t dream big or pray hard.

There are a few things I have prayed for recently and felt led to act in a particular way. This leading makes me wonder if I have lost touch with reality and living a delusion.

“Sometimes faith seems like a denial of reality, but that’s because we’re holding on to a reality that is more real than the reality we can perceive with our five senses.” This felt like a confirmation but I still struggle. And this is where faith comes in. Will I continue to pray in faith that God will answer and have faith that if I’m delusional, the Holy Spirit will reveal that as well?

Batterson also comments that many expect the Christian life to get easier the longer they are a believer. It’s actually the complete opposite. I have fallen into this trap often. I treat the spiritual disciplines like physical disciplines. If there is something I’ve practiced and done a thousand times then it is “easy” to perform this task. The difference with spiritual disciplines is your opponent keeps raising the stakes. So you need to pray harder and prepare harder to be ready when the opponent makes you up your game.

“God is for you. If you don’t believe that then you’ll pray small timid prayers, if you do believe it, then you’ll pray big audacious prayers… [Prayers] are the best predictors of your spiritual future. Who you become is determined by how you pray.”

I want faith strong enough, like Jesus described, I could command the mountains to jump into the ocean. The deep prayer of my heart is that my faith would sustain me in joy when I’m in the valley as well as on the mountain. I want to see people come to faith in Christ through my sharing the Gospel and through the testimony of my life. I want to pray for things that only God can do. I want to see God’s power in my life.

Do you struggle with small prayers? How are you moving toward a stronger faith?