I came across a story in Readers Digest. The family dog had been deaf and blind for years. When she started having painful tumors they made the difficult decision to put her to sleep. As the mom tried to explain it to her seven-year-old son, he asked if “Jazzy” would go to heaven. The mother said “Yes, and in dog heaven she will be healthy again and able to do her favorite thing: chase squirrels.”
The boy thought for a minute, then said, “So dog heaven must be the same as squirrel hell.”
We seldom think of things from the other perspective. This is especially true in the way we pray. Our prayers are for our needs with little consideration of how they might affect the other guy.
Mark Twain made me aware of this in something I read years ago. He was on a steamship sailing from America to Europe, and he noticed that everyone on board was praying for favorable winds. Twain said that by doing so they were praying for the wind to be in the faces of the ships coming the other way.
When I pray for my team to win, I’m praying for the other team to lose. What about all those Christians on the other team praying for my team to lose?
We would seldom admit this, but our tendency is to think that the whole thing ought to spin around us. “God, why don’t you make my life easier? Why won’t you do what I want, when I want?” Did you ever consider that if you always got what you wanted, when you wanted it, that there would be a lot of other people that didn’t get what they needed when they needed it?
I pray for sunshine so that we can go on the picnic we planned. The farmers are begging for rain to help the crops. Which is more important? My picnic or their crops?
So what do we make of this? How should we pray?
First, it’s all right to ask for your wants and needs. Philippians said, “Let your requests be made known to God. . .” Second, buffer your prayer with humility. Recognize that running the universe is more complicated than you can imagine and let God be the one to decide priorities. “God, here’s what I request, but I understand that there might be some issues I’m not aware of so I will defer to your wisdom.” Third, bathe your prayer in faith. “God I understand that even if this isn’t answered the way I ask that you are still going to take care of me in the way that you know is best.”