As context for this blog post I was at work today and having to go through a pile of seventy receipts and check each one of them against a computer record. It is a boring task though in time terms it might only take five minutes, still they are a very dull five minutes, and so almost idly I prayed that I would come across the receipt that was wrong soon rather than it being the last one I checked. I processed a few more than saw that a receipt had fallen onto my lap, I stifled an irrational hope that this receipt would be ‘the one’ and checked it to find that amazingly enough it was. Coincidence, most would say but it wasn’t, there was a cause and effect: my prayer and then God’s answer.
But the question is: did my prayer dishonour God? Did praying about something so small, so insignificant and petty, something that was purely for my own sake and no one else’s, something that saved me a mere few minutes, did this dishonour God? Considering the power, majesty, strength, wisdom and infinite glory of our Creator God how can I pray petty little prayers?
I would argue no for this idea is not found anywhere in the Bible, more we are actually commanded to bring everything before God in prayer:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Philippians 4 v 6
Indeed, I would say that prayer over such petty things actually honours God for the following reasons:
It expresses faith in his sovereignty - generally you only pray for what you believe God can answer. Praying for the tiny things of life shows that you believe that God is, as the Bible says, in control of everything. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” (Matthew 10v29). We can work our way up from this and say that if God cares about the sparrows he cares when he pray to him about finding a lost sock, finding a parking space, remembering something for later, etc.
He’s our Father, he does not despise our childlikeness – if we think of our own human fathers then we know that when we were children they would care about the things that we cared about even if that was not finding any worms in the garden. A father’s love for his children means that he is concerned about anything that they are concerned about. And if this is the case with our human fathers how much more is it the case with our Heavenly Father. Jesus said: “Do not be afraid, little flock.” He knows our weakness, he knows that we are but a timid sheep and if we offer petty sheep-like prayers he will not despise rather in love he condescends to answer even the tiny prayers we offer.
God is gracious – Such is our God, we see his humility and graciousness in Jesus becoming man, we see it as Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and we see his gracious humility in how he willing serves his people through answering prayer. “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64v4)
It is important as well to add in a qualifier: God is not a genie in a magic lamp, as with all prayer then little prayers go unanswered too. And when our small prayers are answered with a ‘no’ then it’s vital that we realize that the three above points are all still gloriously true. God is still sovereign in unanswered prayer, he is still your ever loving Father and he is still overflowing with grace, love and peace towards us.
And let us as well use the answered small prayers as an encouragement and incentive to prayer bigger, bolder, greater prayers for the state of Christ’s church and the glory of his kingdom, let us use every answered prayer to spur us on to greater intercession for the gospel to flourish, justice to be done and God’s glory to be proclaimed from one end of the earth to the other. Let our petty prayers remind us to prayer for others as well. For if God cares so much about us that he would answer our little prayers then how much more will he answer our bigger ones?
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Ephesians 3 v 20 - 21