I have learned to tell God exactly what I want regardless of how impossible it may sound. I pray for peace in the Middle East, for justice in Africa, for religious freedom in China and other countries, for an end to homelessness and racism in the U.S, because I earnestly desire those things–and moreover, I believe God does too.
A friend of min in Chicago tried to recruit some colleagues in urban ministry to join him in a season of prayer for an end to poverty in that city. Almost everyone he asked balked. “Why pray for something so idealistic and impossible?” they objected. My friend had a different view. What is the point of prayer if not to express our heart’s desire, especially when it matches what we know to be God’s will on earth? Who knows what will happen when we pray what we know God desires? Remember the many prayers of Christians behind the Iron Curtain and in an apartheid South Africa, prayers that also seemed impossible and idealistic.
God invites us to ask plainly for what we need. We will not be scolded any more than a child who climbs into her parent’s lap and presents a Christmas wish list. Dr. Vernon Grounds says that when he hears of someone in need of healing, he prays like this: ‘God, I know you have your own purposes and undoubtedly have a plan for this person, but I’ll tell you straight out what I would like to see happen.”
If diagnosed with a serious illness, I would ask directly for physical healing. We are commanded to pray for healing, Jesus decisively demonstrated God’s desire for human health and wholeness, and dozens of studies have borne out the effectiveness of prayer in the healing processes built into our bodies.
Sometimes Jesus asked a person, “Do you want to be healed?” That was no idle question: as doctors testify, some patients can hardly imagine an identity apart from their unwell condition. In prayers for healing, as in all prayer of request, we should honestly present the problem and tell God our heart’s desire.