Once, when I was in college, I had a friend share with me how he “miraculously” scored an 88% on his chemistry exam. My friend had forgotten to study for his test, walked into class, and was surprised to hear he had an exam that day. So he threw up a prayer to God. And wouldn’t you know it? God walked him through the exam, informing him how to answer every step of the way! It was like he had an earpiece and God came through loud and clear…A, C, D, B, C, A….
After my friend told me this story I had a handful of questions for him, like, how did God only get an 88% on the exam and not a 100%? And wouldn’t a more mature follower of Jesus actually study for the test? After all, isn’t studying and being aware of the exam schedule a sign of responsibility? Wouldn’t the Heavenly Father always be pushing us toward becoming more mature, complete, responsible people?
Could my friend have heard the test answers directly from God and scored an 88%? Yes. God can do all things! Yet, I don’t believe the heart of prayer is for us to have a direct-line earpiece to God, following His minute-to-minute directions like we are some sort of puppets.
Surely, prayer should reveal to us to who God is and what His end goal is for us—to be continually growing and aware of His presence, to be more alive, and to become more like Jesus. Certainly, then, our prayer life should help us grow in these areas, instead of functioning like a vending machine where we put in the coins, push a button, and get what we want.
I would hope my prayer life would reflect a relationship that is a priority, one in which I am vulnerable, listen, and grow closer to our Heavenly Father. And that in the process of prayer, I would begin to embrace the Heavenly Father not just for what He does or does not do in our lives, but for who He is.
I’m all for throwing up the last-minute prayers when I forget an exam or need an extra hand. I know God hears these prayers and is able. Yet I long for a prayer life that pushes me into a closer relationship with the Almighty God, not being fixated on what He does or does not do for me, but on who He is and how much He loves me.
This type of prayer life is a challenge for me and for many others. And it’s often why I find myself repeating the request the disciples made to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). I believe that when I ask this question and make time to listen, Jesus will teach me and lead me into a deeper relationship with the Heavenly Father.