The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Improving Our Prayer Language: The Only Ask Once Rule

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Think about the way you’ve been praying lately. If we played a recording of everything you’ve said to God over the last two weeks, would we hear you asking Him for the same things over and over again? Are there certain requests that you keep repeating? It doesn’t matter where you get your requests from. You could be offering requests to God on behalf of other Christians that you know. You could be on the prayer committee at your church. You could be asking God to grow you in certain areas or help you with certain fears. The source and subject of your requests—these are both important things. But in this post, we’re going to focus on this habit you have of repeating requests to God, because that is something which is very detrimental to your faith.

Why do you ask God for things multiple times? It’s rather obvious, isn’t it? When do we ever find you repeating your requests to humans? Only when you don’t think they heard you. When you know they did hear you, you don’t ask them again. You might remind them of what you said, but you don’t keep asking them over and over again. Asking is a special kind of communication. Asking is different than stating, and when we do it too much with God, asking starts to erode faith.

God is always listening to you. When you talk to Him, He always hears you. In fact, He does much better than just hear those verbal words you formed in your mind—He hears what you actually meant to say. Prayer is something we do with our souls, and our souls don’t have to bother with verbal language. Your soul speaks to God in its own spiritual language which is far more efficient than the language we humans use with each other. And because God knows you inside and out, He always knows what you mean regardless of how well you feel you communicated something to Him. So then, when you ask God for something, He hears you.

God doesn’t ignore His own creations. When we talk to Him, He always responds. So when you hear Christians saying “God answered my prayer” like it’s some big deal, what they’re really communicating is their lack of faith. God ALWAYS answers ALL prayers—this should be one of those super obvious truths to us. But in reality, we believe that God only answers some of our prayers. We reserve the phrase “God answered my prayer” to mean “God did what I wanted Him to do.” When God doesn’t do what we want Him to do, then we say, “God isn’t talking to me.” This is very problematic language. Certainly we can FEEL ignored when God doesn’t give us the answer we want, but to then claim that we ARE ignored is to put our faith in lies instead of truth. What happens when we start trusting in lies? We become filled with anxiety, doubt, and fear. We grow increasingly insecure in our relationship with God. We find it impossible to believe that He really loves us or wants us or listens to us. Every time we see ourselves rehearsing lies about God, those lies sound more credible to us. It might sound rather nitpicky to analyze the exact wording of your prayers, but the truth is that how you communicate with God plays an enormous role in how secure you feel with Him. The more you tell yourself, “God doesn’t listen to me, God doesn’t care about me, and God doesn’t love me,” the more you will believe these things. Every time you ask God for something that you’ve already asked Him for, you are rehearsing lies about who He is and how He interacts with you. If you really believed He heard you the first time, why would you repeat your request? You wouldn’t.

Repetitive requests are very bad for your spiritual health. They erode your faith and increase your fear. To get back on the right track, you need to invoke a new rule into your prayer life: ONLY ASK ONCE. Here’s how it works:

1st Time: “God, please heal me from this addiction.”

2nd Time: “God, I know You always do what is best for me. I wish this addiction could be gone from my life, but since it’s still here, help me to honor You by submitting to Your will for me.”

3rd Time: “I’m choosing to submit to Your plan for me, even though I don’t like it. Pleasing You is more important to me than getting my own way.”

1st Time: “God, please heal my friend from cancer.”

2nd Time: “I know You are going to do what is best for my friend. Help me to have confidence in Your wisdom.”

3rd Time: “It’s really hard for me to trust that You’re handling this well when she keeps getting worse. But I know You’ve heard my requests and I know You’re giving me as much grace as You feel I need.”

4th Time: “It sure doesn’t seem to me like I’m honoring You with all this doubt. But since I know You are doing what is best for me, I’m choosing to trust that this is good enough. As long as You are pleased, it doesn’t matter if I feel like I’m failing.”

Do you see what happens when you abide by the “only ask once” rule? You are driven back into a corner of faith and trust. You are forced to start practicing confidence in God, because peppering Him with more doubt-filled requests just isn’t an option. Now take a look at our examples above and see how much room there is for honesty. The addict didn’t try to pretend he wasn’t disappointed in God’s refusal to heal him. The woman with the sick friend didn’t try to pretend she wasn’t struggling to trust God. God wants total honesty from us and the honest truth is that we really, really don’t like many of the answers He gives us. God does things that greatly upset us. He withholds things from us that seem totally good. Notice how in our second example, the woman recognizes her trust in God is really weak. As her sick friend gets steadily worse, the woman can see that she doesn’t really believe God is doing things right. She wants to honor God with more faith, but He just isn’t supplying it. Because she’s avoiding asking Him for the same thing over and over, she quickly comes to realize that submission is her only option. Clearly God has heard her, and clearly He has given her as much faith as He wants her to have. If it’s not enough to stop doubting Him, then clearly He’s alright with that and the woman needs to align with His agenda for her.

Applying the “only ask once” rule is a very powerful way to turn your prayer life into the growth inspiring experience it was always meant to be. God wants our conversations with Him to have an inspiring, strengthening effect on our souls. Prayer is supposed to drive us on to deeper levels of submission and trust. But none of that is going to happen when we keep talking to God as if we believe He’s ignoring us by asking Him for the same thing over and over again. So then, how serious are you about wanting to honor God in your life? It isn’t honoring to God when His children express unending doubt in His care of them. For both His sake and ours, we need to apply the “only ask once” rule and start treating God with the respect He deserves.

FURTHER READING:
Lifting Each Other Up in Prayer
Intercessory Prayer Teams: Don’t Go There

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