Several circumstances in my life lately have convicted me of my lack of prayer. Reading about King David constantly turning to God in prayer for guidance and deliverance in 1 and 2 Samuel got me thinking. Prayer held a prevalent place in two books (Knowing God, Sovereignty of God) I’ve read this summer, which helped to crystallize the conviction. Hearing stories from the past and present of God’s faithfulness in answered prayer from my parents and pastors kept the theme at the top of my mind. Listening to my dad’s prayer at our wedding and seeing that prayer already being richly answered in our marriage further humbled me to the greatness of God in answering prayer.
Certain situations have also reminded us of God’s faithfulness in answering prayer and our unfaithfulness in not bathing our decisions and lives in prayer. God has been so good in answering prayer for so many things: my wife passing comprehensive exams, guiding us in decision-making, upholding us financially in unexpected ways, and countless other situations that have been clear answers to prayer.
But on the other side of the coin, we have been learning lessons from being unfaithful in not praying. For example, something that we should have been fervently prayer for went very poorly. But in hindsight, the outcome was really no surprise because we did not pray about the situation at all! Lesson learned: not only pray for everything, but even in the situations that don’t go well, God has a purpose in mind (i.e. teaching us to pray for everything).
The promise in Romans 8 is not a guarantee for an easy life, but taken in context it is a promise that the “good” that God is working for us is for us to be conformed more to the image of his Son. It’s not a promise that God will work things out how we want them to work out, but it is in accordance with his sovereign purposes:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (8:28-30)
“All things work together for good” does not mean that everything will come up roses, but that God has a purpose in everything for his children to grow more like Christ and to progress further in sanctification. That was so evident in our lives in the aforementioned situation. We learned not to lean on our own wisdom, but to call upon the Lord in prayer – not for the purposes of changing God’s mind, but to align our will with His and to lean on his promises in faith for answered prayer as a means of God working his purposes out.
My dad says that these are great lessons to learn early in a marriage, but I have a feeling we will have to keep re-learning them throughout our lives. As God is molding me more and more into a man of prayer, I realize not only how much I desperately need to be a man of prayer, but also how much more grace I need to really become one.