The words successful and prayer don’t seem to fit together.
When is the last time you heard statements like:
“Oh, she’s such a success at prayer.”
“This morning I had a very successful prayer time.”
“If only I could pray as successfully as he does.”
These statements just sound weird. We don’t talk this way. Instead, we talk about the success of the marketing campaign or the potty training battle or the football game.
These pursuits are measurable—either you got the new customers or not. These pursuits are specific—either your kid used the potty or not. And these pursuits are attainable—either you won the game or not. Success is easily defined.
But how do you define the success of prayer?
Is successful prayer answered prayer? I don’t think so. When answered prayer becomes the point of prayer then:
- We treat God as a vending machine for our desires. All we do is pop the change in and out comes a Snickers bar. Prayer becomes the method for getting what we want.
- We become discouraged when our prayers aren’t answered. When answered prayer is the goal, then what happens when our prayer isn’t answered? Then our prayer fails.
- We value what God does more than who God is. We end up missing the person of God because we’re focused on the performance of God.
Instead, I think successful prayer is not answered prayer, but intimate prayer.
The point of prayer is connecting with God. In Psalm 27, King David prayed, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek.”
What did he seek? Was it a larger kingdom, more wealth, more wisdom? No, “that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life.”
For what reason? So he could keep asking God to answer his prayers? No, “to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”
The one thing, the singular thing, the most important thing that David wanted from God was to be with him. That’s measurable, specific, and attainable.
But here’s the thing. In David’s time, the temple was where God’s presence dwelled. David had to go to the temple to meet God. That’s inconvenient. That’s an obstacle. But not for us!
When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:51). The curtain separated the Holy of Holies—where God’s presence dwelled—from where the people gathered. But Jesus destroyed the separation between God and man. And through him, we have become God’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19).
We don’t have to go anywhere to meet God. We can meet God here, now.
So set your goal at connecting with God. Yes, you’ll have answered prayer along the way, but best of all, you’ll have him.
Now that’s success.
What else makes successful prayer? You can comment below.