A Point On Prayer

I was watching the end of the LSU v. Florida football game Saturday evening as the camera focused in on a Florida fan with her eyes closed, apparently praying for a favorable ending to the game.

It reminded me of my college basketball days, when I would pray fervently that we would win games.  I continued the practice into the beginning of my law career, praying before each trial that we would win.  I don’t pray that way anymore.

It’s not because I don’t think God is interested in the outcome of college basketball games or trials.  He undoubtedly is. I don’t pray that way anymore because I now understand about common ground.

C.S. Lewis explained it like this:  If you are walking downhill in one direction, a person walking in the opposite direction must, by necessity, walk uphill. This seems simple enough, but I found myself praying like I didn’t understand it.

Football games, basketball games and trials all occur on common ground, in other words, on a common objective reality.  The outcome of the LSU v. Florida football game probably affected more than a million people. For those watching at home who were watching for entertainment value, the effect was probably minor. For the coaches, and to a lesser degree the players, the effect could be major or career-altering.  How could I possibly know how to pray for the outcome of the game to account for all the people it would affect?

Sure, I could pray completely self-interested, “Lord, I don’t care how the outcome of this game affects a million people, what I want is most important”? How spiritual is that?

The only person who could know how to pray in such a situation, who has the breadth of knowledge to take into account all the variables and persons involved, is God, and I ain’t He.

So I generally don’t pray for outcomes in such situations; I pray for outworkings. For example, going into a trial, instead of praying to win (an outcome) I pray the Lord would work in and through me to enable me to perform excellently (an outworking).

Two things happen. First, it takes the pressure off me because trying to control an outcome creates anxiety. Second, I can pray with more faith because I can be more confident the Lord wants me to do well than I can be about a particular outcome.

Give it a try.  I think you will find it liberating. GS

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