"You do not have, because you do not ask God. And when you do ask, you don't receive because you ask wrongly, with wrong motives, for selfish reasons." James 4:2-3
An overcast sky made the country night intensely dark and a light drizzle made the highway dangerously slick. On my way home that night, as I passed a semi-trailer and pulled in front of it, my car struck a slippery patch of roadway and went slithering snake-like down the road out of control. Abruptly my car swung around and began careening down the road backwards with the semi-trailer barreling down on top of me!
In terror I prayed, "God, help!"
With only moments to spare, my car suddenly flipped sideways out of the path of the oncoming semi! But it kept skidding sideways off the highway and down an embankment. Certain my car would now overturn, in terror I prayed again. Amazingly, my car didn't overturn. Neither did it stop. It swung around and then went forward bouncing through a field. "Oh no," I thought, "now I'll end up smashing into a tree." I thought my number was up. I prayed again.
Eventually my car stopped in front of some bushes. Miraculously, I missed every post by the roadside and every tree in the field. I backed up a few feet, turned around and drove back to the freeway without a single bruise to myself or a scratch on my car.
Was my safety a coincidence or does God answer prayer and help us when we call on him?
In my experience, I have found that God answers some prayers very quickly; others quite slowly. And some don't seem to get answered at all.
Effective prayer is not a lucky charm to gain special favors. Neither is it a pain-killer like a giant aspirin: "Take God three times a day and you won't feel any pain!" as John Powell put it.
Prayer can be effective. The key is learning to pray the right prayer. As the Bible says, "You do not have, because you do not ask God. And when you do ask, you don't receive because you ask wrongly, with wrong motives, for selfish reasons.1
How, then, do we pray the right prayers?
Pray responsibly. God won't do for us what we need to do for ourselves. Many a time, for example, when I was a student, I'd pray furiously for God's help at examination time—especially when I wasn't adequately prepared. I managed to pass my exams, but not because of any pray-instead-of-study prayers.
To be continued…
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that you desire that I always come to you in prayer, and that you always answer my prayers—one way or the other. Help me to learn how to pray the right prayer and not expect you to do for me what I can and need to do for myself. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name. Amen."