I hope these little anecdotes of bad prayers that God made good on will encourage you to pray anyway even if you are bad at praying! You cannot pray wrong, so relax your expectations and just pray.
My first prayers were written in a little notebook and went a little like this: “Dear God, I’m not sure if you exist, but…” and I would pour out my thoughts, frustrations and whatever came to mind just as if God was an impersonal journal. It took me two years, but as I clumsily prayed in this way, unexplainable answered prayers came until I really couldn’t deny anymore that there must exist a God that has real power over the circumstances of my life!
Once I selfishly prayed, “Lord, I’m not even a Christian, and these so-call Christians are shallow and more uncaring than me!” I was in tears from feeling left out after attending a social gathering organised by the young adults of the church. I was really just venting my emotions, not thinking God could change the situation. So, I was shocked a few months later to discover that the social dynamic of the group had dramatically changed so as to foster healthy relationships and growing faith. God answered me on what had been a self-centred emotional venting!
Once I asked everyone, I knew to pray I wouldn’t have to go to a regional school for my placement because I didn’t feel like I could handle the extra burden. Placements were announced. I got a regional placement. But this placement turned out to be such a blessing in so many ways! It was like God was responding to our prayers saying, “I said ‘no’ because I know better than you which option had the greater blessings.”
I heard of a woman who was terrified of praying out loud in front of others, but one day suddenly spoke up in prayer for the first time. A minister asked, “what gave you courage?” She said, “I finally felt free to pray anything because I realised at least I couldn’t sound more awkward than you.”
I pray bad prayers all the time! Shallow prayers, awkwardly worded prayers, selfish prayers, doubting prayers, overly demanding prayers. Jesus said, “Which of you if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11). I am confident that God won’t give me a snake when I have asked for a fish. I am confident that he gives me good gifts even when I unwittingly ask for a snake. But more regularly, I see God shaping and transforming my prayers. As I read the Bible the Holy Spirit is conforming my heart to God’s will, as I keep praying for the same matter over and over - I see the wording of my prayers change, the details of what I’m asking for change and my doubting attitude change. And day by day, one by one my prayers are being shaped into godly, eloquent, biblical, faith-filled prayers. But how would I have gotten to this if I hadn’t given God any bad prayers to work within the first place? Will you join me in praying, starting with bad prayers that God can make good.