Not a Request Line

by

When I was a teenager, our local radio station dedicated every Thursday evening to a request line show. We all sat by our rotary phones and dialed as fast as we could. I was on the air once, but it was so disappointing. I expected to have some personal interaction with the DJ. But I made my quick request and that was the end of it.

Have you ever felt that your prayers are like that? You list your petitions one by one and that’s the end of it. To be sure, the Scriptures contain many examples of brief, prayerful petitions, including the Lord’s Prayer. Still, if this is the only way you approach God with your needs, you won’t find much more personal engagement with God than I did with that radio DJ.

The Scriptures clearly teach that long before we pray, God already knows everything and that He has already determined what He is going to do. It’s true that God is omniscient and absolutely sovereign over all things. To think that we can give God new information or convince Him to do something that He hasn’t already planned is the height of arrogance. But if we’re not careful, we’ll abuse these wondrous truths about God by never pouring our hearts out to Him in prayer. As one of my grandchildren once prayed: “God, you already know everything. So, just take care of it all.”

Although God knows everything, the Scriptures also teach that He invites us to tell Him our deepest longings and hopes. As Peter put it, we are to cast all our anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). One simple way the Scriptures encourage us to do this is to tell God not only what we need, but why we believe He should grant our requests.

Consider just one example. In Exodus 32:10, God threatened to destroy the Israelites because they worshiped the golden calf at Mount Sinai. As you can imagine, God’s threat weighed heavily on Moses. So, “Moses implored the Lord his God” (v. 11) by telling God why He should show mercy. Moses said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people … ? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out’ ? … Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self” (vv. 11–13). No quick petition was adequate for Moses’ critical situation. He poured out his heart by supporting his request. He appealed to God’s special love for His people, God’s glory in the world, and the promises that God had made.

I have made Moses’ example my regular practice in prayer. I appeal to God’s love for His people, His glory in the world, and His many promises in Scripture whenever I bring a petition to Him. Time and again, this practice has helped me avoid turning prayer into an impersonal request line. One way to invigorate your prayer life is to adopt Moses’ example for yourself. Rather than simply telling God what you need, tell him why you need it.

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.