A Lesson in Prayer
Updated: Jan 12, 2019
- what we can learn from the leper
A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean."
Taking my kids shopping requires patience, organization, and the ability to say no in ten different languages.
"Mom, we're out of fruit snacks, can we get some? And what about cereal? I like the kind with marshmallows and frosted everything. Do we have the stuff to make brownies when we get home?" Each aisle leads to a new request; it's more subtle in the toy section, "Mom, did you know my bike is broken? I sure wish I could ride it." And then there's the checkout line, "Oh, mom, I really need lip balm for school, can I grab one? I’m so hungry. I want a candy bar. . . please?"
The incessant begging inevitably leads to a fuller cart and bigger bill. I know it's hard though, resisting the temptation to beg for everything. I walk through life that way sometimes. My prayer life becomes like a trip to the store.
Lord, I'm really struggling at work, please help lighten my load. And do you see the pain this illness is causing my friend? She could use some relief. Then there's that thing I've been praying about for a really long time, any chance I could get that now?
The creator of the universe listens as we pummel Him with request after request. Only, He doesn't get annoyed like I tend to at the store with my kids, fighting the urge to scream out, “Will you just stop asking!?!” Instead, our incessant begging is met with mercy, grace, and love. Still, we want our prayers to honor the Lord. Thankfully, He gives us His word to teach us how to pray as a child of God rather than a child begging at the store. In Matthew, we see an example of prayer that honors God from a man with leprosy.
First, this man teaches us how to approach the Lord. Even though his disease had caused him to be ignored and ostracized, the leper boldly approached Jesus, walking through the crowds with confidence. But the leper's confidence isn't in himself; it comes from his faith. We, too, can boldly approach our Lord, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14). This confidence, rooted in faith, is paired with humility. Take a look at the leper again: as soon as he reached the feet of Jesus, he knelt before Him. He marched through the crowds in confidence, only to bow down at the feet of Jesus. Though we might not physically kneel before our Lord in prayer, we can bend our hearts in reverence, acknowledging His power and glory. This combination of confidence and humility shifts our focus from our needs to God's power.
The leper first shows us how to prepare our hearts, then how to present our requests. Notice the words he uses. Rather than demanding, "Make me clean. . . please," He honors the Lord by submitting to His will and recognizing His power to heal, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean" (Matthew 8:2b, emphasis mine). In our own prayers, we, too, should submit all things to God's will, acknowledging His sovereignty and trusting that His will is better than our desires. When we ask the Lord to work in our lives, we should also recognize His power and ability to do such work. Prayers that submit to God's will and recognize His power bring glory to our Lord.
From the leper, we learn to approach the Lord with confidence and humility, to present our requests in a way that aligns our desires to His will, and to recognize His power to work in our lives.
When our prayer life mimics this leper’s prayer, the begging child at the store becomes a respectful and obedient child of God. Honor and submission are the focus instead of selfish request and desires. No more requests for trivial or outlandish things, no more begging and pleading like a whiny child. These are replaced by prayers centered around God’s plan for our lives and submission to His will; prayers focused on bringing glory to the Lord.
Lord, You are almighty and all-powerful. The ways You have already worked in my life are beyond my understanding. I know, Lord, that I cannot see what is best in this situation. I know You have the power to give me exactly what I want, but I will trust Your plan even if I don't get that. I pray Your will is done even if it means my desires are unmet. Thank you, Father, for hearing my prayers. Thank You for showing me endless mercy, grace, and love. I pray that this prayer honors You and brings You glory above all else.