What Prayer ISN’T – Contractual

I’m a big fan of contracts because they bring clarity! If I do this then you do this thing of equal value in return. Doing things transactionally are proportional and symmetrical – and I like symmetry. But this isn’t how life works; things aren’t always perfect and rarely do things even out as I wish them to. While I long for the order and reciprocity transactions provide, I’m becoming steadily more thankful for the messiness that life brings. 

I used to think that prayer was contractual. I thought that if I prayed for something then God would do the thing I asked for (or something of comparable value). Or if I prayed for something for long enough then God was contractually obligated to fulfill my request based on the number of hours I put in. If I didn’t get the thing or outcome I wanted, that just meant I hadn’t prayed enough to fulfill my end of the bargain. 

Oh how wrong I was.

Prayer is one of those things that is beyond our comprehension. Praying is a way of communicating with the Creator of the universe and, because he’s unfathomable, how can we expect to understand prayer? This causes problems for me because I like to understand how things work, not knowing isn’t a comfortable space for me, but it’s one I’m finding myself in more and more. 

In a contract, there is little need for trust because it’s all laid out in black and white. If one party doesn’t fulfill his or her side of the bargain, there are repercussions laid out within the document. Time is taken for loopholes to be filled and for verbiage to be perfected so that, theoretically, no one in the transaction gets the upper hand. In a contract you trust the document, believing that it’ll cover all of your needs, even if the person on the other side of the table is less than reputable.

But prayer isn’t signing a contract with God. It’s based on a relationship with him.

There are things in his word that he promises us: I will fight for you (Exodus 14:14), I will renew you (Isaiah 40:31), I give wisdom (James 1:5), I will forgive you (1 John 1:9), I will set you free (John 8:36), and, possibly the best one of all, I love you (John 3:16). Jesus already paid the ultimate price to get us the best possible deal: he takes the blame for our sins, he fronts the bill, and credits us his perfect life. The contract has been drafted and if you’ve accepted his gift, you’ve signed it and it’s been notarized. It can’t be amended, no addenda will be added – this contract is iron-clad.

But because of his character, I don’t need a contract; God is worthy of my trust {tweet this}.

When I think about all that Jesus has done and continues to do for me, I can’t help but praise him. I want to talk to him and thank him because I’m wholly unworthy. Today, I encourage you to see prayer as a privilege, not an obligation. See it as an expression of gratitude, not a transaction. Come to him today with nothing but honor and praise, set aside your needs, whether they are few or many, trusting his character more than anything else.

If you don’t have a prayer journal, you can download one here


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