Over the years I’ve prayed about some weird things. I’ve prayed about the sex of my Giant African Bullfrogs (the males are bigger), I’ve prayed about my max deadlift and I don’t know how many thousands of prayers I’ve prayed about my power clean! I’ve prayed for dying family members and I’ve prayed for new babies. I’ve prayed for adventures and I’ve begged for alone time. My parents raised me to love the Lord and my dad taught me to ask God for all sorts of stuff. We would pray when we were sick and we would pray when we were healthy. We would pray for big things like a new house and even for small things like finding the car keys. We would thank God when things were going well and when things were terrible. I would tell my dad about a goal I had or something I’d love to see in my life time and he would say “have you prayed about it yet?”. So from a very young age I knew I could talk to God about anything and I could ask Him for whatever. One time my dad and I went out on the prairie path looking for snapping turtles in the flooded marshes and didn’t find any until we prayed. After we prayed we saw what I still think was the biggest common snapper I’ve ever seen, it had to be 40 lbs!
Now prayer is by no means a silver bullet. Just because you pray for something doesn’t mean God has to give it to you. God has a plan for you and for me, He has a plan for the universe and everything in it and we can’t ruin that plan. God is in the heavens and He does all that He pleases (Psalm 115:3) so what ever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps (Psalm 135:6) therefore Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. Again, we know that the LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. Since the counsel of the LORD stands forever (Psalm 34:8-11) and since we know that the LORD of hosts has planned and stretched out his hand, we can say with Isaiah: who can frustrate the LORD or turn back his hand? (Isaiah 14:27).
In light of these powerful verses you might say: “Parker why pray then? If God is so sovereign and since He has already planned out history, isn’t prayer just a waste of time? He’s not going to change His mind.” That question used to make me shrink back from talking about God’s sovereignty but now it makes me run towards it even more. If God is as sovereign as the Bible says He is, then our prayers do in fact mean something. Think about it, if God wasn’t all-powerful, If He wasn’t sovereign why would you pray to Him? “God, please heal me, please save my friend, please let us have a safe trip etc..” “Ok I will try my best but give me a break I’m not sovereignly controlling the universe..”. That’s not the God of the Bible. Our God is in control and that’s a God worth praying to, that’s a God who can do something. Perhaps God has ordained that the 61st time you pray for your brother to give his life to Christ he will. We look at the ends (your brother giving his life to Christ) without looking at the means by which God brings that event to come about (you sharing your faith with him and praying for him 61 times).
If God has planned it all out why should we pray and how can we be held responsible for our actions? That question assumes you’re aware of God’s hidden will. Do you know God’s plans for your life? Do you know the future exhaustively? Of course not. God uses us in His plan, He uses our actions and yes even our prayers to accomplish His will. Ok so we don’t know his secret will but what do we know? We know what God has revealed to us in the Bible. We know that there are certain things God hides from us but wants us to search for and find, “it is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” (Proverbs 25:2) and we know there are other things we will have to wait on, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away… For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). So for now we don’t know what God has planned for all of our prayers, but we are told not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving we are to let our requests be made known to God.
When we pray and talk to God sometimes the answer is no, sometimes it’s maybe and sometimes it’s yes. Prayer is not just asking for things or stuff, there are many types of prayers and even more occasions for different prayers. But this post is specifically about asking. God has an eternal plan that we can’t thwart, but we each have a part in that plan and that includes our prayers so they do matter. God uses our prayers to teach us, to encourage us, to remind us how we’ve changed, and even to bring about events that He’s planned for us to pray for. This brings us to the story of Eric and the Hawks and how God sovereignly answered my prayer.
Like I said earlier, I pray about all sorts of weird things. One spring day several years ago I asked God to show me a hawk eat something. Yeah it probably sounds goofy but I had been driving on route 88, the most boring toll road in all of Illinois, for hours that spring and the only thing to look at in the post winter corn fields was the occasional hawk soaring overhead. They look so awesome as they roam the skies looking for bunnies, mice, sparrows, and other small critters but a guy can only take so much soaring and roaming. I needed to see some dive bombing. So as I drove home from Dekalb to Wheaton I asked God to show me a hawk dive bomb something. Two days later I was back on 88 returning to Dekalb and as I got off on the Annie Glidden exit, out of the corner of my eye I saw a grey streak. It was a hawk in mid decent! Bam! The hawk blasted an unsuspecting bunny right along side the exit. It was amazing. I thanked God for answering my prayer and for feeding that beautiful hawk.
Naturally I was all amped up about God and nature and hawks and the food chain, so I drove to my buddy Eric Horne’s house to brag about what I had seen. At the time he was living in the church parsonage, so I pulled up and barged in. I anxiously blurted out the whole story and all the bloody details to which Eric replied: “that’s dumb bro”. I went from excited to angry in record time. Eric couldn’t believe I would pray about something so weird and meaningless. He thought it was a waste of a prayer and a waste of time. So I gently recused myself and patiently drove home to my town house. Nah just kidding I probably told him to screw himself and I left in a huff.
Later that week I went back over to Eric’s house with some friends and that was when he told me about the hawk plague. Since that day I told him my story, two hawks had made a nest close to the parsonage and had been killing rodents left and right. One day as he came home from work one of the Hawks smashed a bunny 15 feet from him in the front yard. The next day a hawk was perched on the sign across the street ripping apart another animal and it’s entrails were hanging down the sign. Day after day he saw these two hawks ripping into the local wild life in front of his eyes. I was astonished when he told me the details but the kicker was that God had been vindicating me through each story. Eric told me he felt as if God was saying “see Eric!”. God was affirming what He tells us in the Bible about praying for all sorts of things. He was reaffirming what He taught me through my parents as a kid and He was inviting Eric into a closer relationship with Himself, a more intimate relationship where he doesn’t have to worry about “wasting” prayers but can feel free to ask God for all sorts of big things, small things, and even unconventional things. The hawks continued to swoop past the house for another couple of weeks while their eggs hatched and babies grew. Eric would continue to send me snap chats of them killing stuff, eating stuff and flying way too close to the house. My favorite snap was of one hawk standing right outside Eric’s window first thing in the morning staring at him. God continued to drive the point home again and again.
God used a silly little prayer request in several big ways. He answered my prayer at the highway exit, He used me to get Eric to say it was a dumb request then He vindicated my request by bringing an entire hawk family into Eric’s life. But even more than that He was showing Eric and I that He is a personal loving God, He cares about the things we care about, even our silly little thoughts. God used my prayer request to bring about good for Eric and I and He had planned these events from eternity past that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). Our prayers matter and our desires matter. God uses our prayers in so many ways and He even uses the ones we think are too small to pray about. If you are a Christian you have peace with God the Father through Jesus his son. Ask, seek, knock. If our parents here on earth give us good presents how much more will our perfect Heavenly Father? I’m not telling you that prayer twists God’s arm and make him obey our wills, what I am saying is that your prayers matter. Praying to God will change you and conform your will to His and you’d be surprised how He answers your requests.