I struggle a lot with prayer. I never know how specific I should get with my prayers. Should I be asking God to give me Ferraris, introduce me to Zooey Deschanel, and become a best-selling author? I don’t know. But sometimes I feel like a little kid when I pray, asking for things that I think I want but actually don’t. What was the number one request of child Spencer? Pokemon cards. Do I still use my Pokemon cards? No. I wish I had asked for books. Lots and lots of books. And I feel like this is what it’s like when we come to God for something. God knows our own destinies infinitely better than we do and so asking an omniscient being for things seems a bit childish.
For a long time, I thought prayer was silly because of this passage from Jesus in Matthew:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. (Matthew 6:25-26)
Notice how this passage says nothing about prayer. I was severely misguided in my thoughts. See, Jesus, only a few verses earlier is teaching his disciples how to pray. I guess I always kind of glossed over that part because it wasn’t a very compelling story. But there is a very compelling story of prayer that happens really early on in the Bible.
This story occurs in Genesis 18. Abraham has been hanging out with God for a while. Abraham was one of those cool people that God actually walked around with. And they chatted, probably hiking mountains together and watching the sunrise and cool stuff like that. But in Genesis 18, God tells Abraham that he is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities that have fallen into such sin that they would make Las Vegas look like Heaven on Earth. This doesn’t sit well with Abraham. So he asks God if God will save Sodom and Gomorrah if there are at least 50 righteous people in these cities. God grants that He won’t. And Abraham asks, “Well what about 45?” And again God grants that He won’t. All of this goes on for a while until Abraham gets down to 5, and God again grants that 5 righteous people would be enough.
This story is so powerful. Obviously, God never intended to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if there were righteous people there, but it was important that Abraham ask for their salvation. Sometimes, we get it into our head that if God already knows everything, then we don’t need to ask him for anything. But God wants us to. He wants to have a personal relationship with us. He wants to talk and hear about our lives, and even though He knows how He can make it better, He wants to know how we think it could be made better.