"...in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God..." Philippians 4:6.
Last time, we looked at three important reasons why we should pray, even though God already knows everything — including our needs — and what He wants to accomplish:
1) To have fellowship with God as a co-laborer with Him
2) For our own growth and maturity
3) To insure that we will remain dependent upon Him
We never want to presume upon God's goodness or take Him for granted. Our dependency upon God will prevent us from falling into that trap.
Now that we see we should pray, you may wonder —
What Is It Proper to Ask For?
Philippians 4:6 gives wide-ranging permission: "...in everything...."
There's nothing in life outside the reach of prayer. If it concerns you, it concerns God. We sometimes try to divide life into the "secular" and the "sacred." We say, "This is the sacred part of life. We'll pray about this. But this is the secular part of life. I'll handle this myself." But for the child of God, everything that concerns us, concerns Him.
Many years ago when Dr. Charles Stanley was the new pastor of First Baptist Church, Atlanta, the deacons and finance committee were holding a meeting. The church had been through some turmoil, and they came to a halt over a financial problem. Charles said to those around the table, "Men, let's pray." One of them answered, "Preacher, this is business. We don't need to pray about this."
Now that's the mind-set a lot of people have, dividing life into the sacred and the secular. Can you imagine Jesus Christ dividing His life into the sacred and the secular? Of course not.
Our life is seamless. In all natural things we're spiritual; in all spiritual things we're natural. We're naturally supernatural and supernaturally natural. We don't divide our lives into the secular and the sacred; we divide our lives into the spiritual and the profane. And if it's profane, it's out of bounds. If it is spiritual, we pray about it, whether it's in the natural or the supernatural realm. So what do we pray about? Everything.
You ask, "Can I pray about small things? A parking space? That's silly, that's too small." Can you think of anything that's "big" to God? There's nothing "big" to God. Things are not big or small to Him. The biggest thing you can think of is small to God, and the smallest thing you can think of is important to God, if it's important to you. "...in everything...let your requests be made known unto God."
What If It's Not God's Will?
You may ask, "Suppose there's something I want, and I know it's not God's will. Should I pray about that?" Absolutely. Pray: "Lord, there's something wrong with me. I want something You don't want. Fix my want-er." Pray about it. If there's something you want and you know it's out of the will of God, tell God about it. He already knows what you're thinking anyway.
Does God Hear the Prayers of the Unsaved?
There was an unsaved man in the Bible whose prayers God certainly heard — Cornelius, the centurion (Acts 10:1-4). He was a Gentile, a pagan, an army officer, but notice how he’s described: "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always." Here was an unsaved man, but God was aware of and answered his prayer.
What is the difference between a child of God who can pray in the name of Jesus and an unsaved person who prays?
• God has given prayer promises to the child of God that He has not given to the unsaved.
• But God can hear the unsaved person's prayers and have mercy upon him.
Think of it this way — let's say a banker gives money to a charity or worthy cause. He doesn't have to. There's no law that says he must. But he may decide it's what he wants to do. On the other hand, let's say I have money on deposit in his bank. I can go in and write a check and expect that he will give that money to me. Do you see the difference?
You see, God is sovereign. He can hear and answer the prayers of an unsaved person. We who are Christians have the great prayer promises, and we can "write checks on heaven's bank," signed in the name of Jesus, if we're asking in the will of God.
Next time: Can we change God's mind by our prayers?