When I come to the S in the ACTS formula, I struggle terribly. Supplication is painfully hard for me. I find it easy to come to God with a general request for God to “bless” people, but it’s hard for me to seriously intercede. I prefer to read names to God and add the word “Bless” as a prefix to the names. But if all I pray is for general blessing, I will never know when my prayers are answered.
Real supplication involves praying for God to do particular things in the lives of specific people. This kind of praying is not only time consuming, it requires mental concentration and opens me up to disappointment. This is precisely why I find supplication the most difficult aspect of prayer. I don’t like waiting, and I especially don’t like disappointments.
I am keenly aware that my experience with my son Paul is the main reason for this. While I have often found reason to thank God for sparing Paul’s life, God knows if He gave me a blank sheet of paper and offered for me to write down my top five prayer requests, the first three or four things on the list would all be the same: “God, please heal my son!”
Paul has suffered for so long. God knows if I could fill in a blank check, it would be for Paul’s physical healing. Other concerns seem relatively minor by comparison. Paul’s healing is what I want.
God has not done what I want. Paul continues to have ongoing health problems related to his Spina Bifida. So, when somebody else asks me to pray for what they want, I feel like saying, “Well, God hasn’t given me what I asked. Why should I pray for what you want?” I don’t like admitting this and it’s not something I dwell on, but if we’re going to be honest about prayer, we have to take our pulse every now and then and look at what we are struggling with and honestly ask ourselves why we struggle.
Theologically, I have a deep conviction that God is the Sovereign ruler of the universe. I am utterly convinced of His righteousness and His kindness. I am often grateful that Paul’s condition is not worse. But, because God has not seen fit to do what I want in this area where I care so deeply, I often fail to spend adequate time conversing with my Father in supplication for Paul or anyone else. I simply change the subject.
I know God is in control. He rules the universe. Ultimately, His will is going to be done. Therefore, when it comes time for supplication, I am tempted to limit my prayer to, “Okay God. Go ahead and do whatever you’re going to do.”
I want to simply pray the words of the old hymn, “Have thine own way, Lord,” because I know He’s going to have His way anyway. But this attitude short-circuits an aspect of prayer that the Old and New Testaments clearly reveal as vital. When my words of supplication resemble a combatant’s expression of belligerent surrender rather than a child’s trust in his father, I know my attitude is wrong.
I must learn to do what God asks of me, regardless of my feelings. I want to nurture the most important relationship in my life. Supplication is an opportunity for me to wrestle with God until my will is conformed to His. By cutting my prayers short in this area, I miss the blessing and fail to see the beauty of God’s loving design.
Though I am tempted to relate to my heavenly Father this way, it’s very painful on those occasions when my wife relates to me this way. I’m glad she seldom does this to me.
Sometimes when I ask my wife, “What would you like to do?” If she’s upset with me, she says, “It really doesn’t matter what I want to do, does it?”
My wife assumes I’ll probably do what I want and am only asking her to make her feel that she was in on the decision.
I think, “That’s not true. I do care what she wants. I will make the decision, but I really do care what she thinks, and it’s important to me that she be involved in the process. I want to talk about the decision, and I want us to work on it together so that when the decision is made, we’re moving together in the same direction.”
Although my wife doesn’t respond like this very often to my questions, when she does, our relationship suffers.
Whereas my love for my wife is imperfect, God’s love for His children is perfect. God asks what we think, what we feel, what we want. He’s not playing games with us. He doesn’t need our advice, but He wants us to know that we have been heard and that He understands how we feel. He wants us to draw close to Him and begin to glimpse what He desires.
I don’t always make the right decisions. I don’t always do the right thing. I don’t always behave unselfishly. I don’t always love perfectly. But God is perfect, and He always does what’s right. He always does what’s best.
God wants us to pour out our hearts to Him in supplication, because He always loves perfectly. He will always do what’s right, but He wants to discuss His plan with His children. He wants us to know what He’s thinking and doing. It is vitally important for the sake of our relationship with our heavenly Father that we go ahead – even when we feel like He’s not listening – and tell Him what we think.