Written By Daniel Ryan Day, USA
Daniel is married to his high school sweetheart, and dad to three. He’s the author of What’s Next: Your Dream Job, God’s Call and a Life That Sets You Free, and a podcaster at Our Daily Bread. He holds a Master’s Degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is an ordained minister.
Last year, I applied for a job at a company I really liked. I was excited, and felt qualified for the position. For two years, I had worked part-time at this organization, and when a full-time position became available, I applied immediately. I liked the people. I liked the company. I liked the job. But there was nothing I could do to make it happen.
So I prayed. And prayed. And prayed some more. One day, I received a phone call, and discovered I was being interviewed for the position. Wahoo! I couldn’t wait. I prepared answers for questions I thought I would be asked. I prayed. I journaled. And then I waited.
As the day of the interview drew closer, I started to get nervous. My stomach was twisted. My legs shook up and down incessantly. I could feel my heart beating.
The day of the interview arrived, but I woke up late and forgot to pray. The thought occurred to me . . . God may not bless my interview because I forgot to spend time with Him in the morning.
Looking back on that moment, I recognize some myths I’ve believed about prayer that exposed my misconceptions of God. I wish I could say I’ve outgrown these, but sometimes false ideas about how God works still go through my head, especially when there’s something I need or want. Here are three misconceptions I discovered I held about God through this process:
If I don’t pray, God might punish me.
When I forget to spend time with God, I often worry that bad things are going to happen. I feel the same way when I sin. I wonder if God is going to smite me in some way for not measuring up. The morning of my interview, I wondered if God would withhold His blessing because I woke up late and didn’t spend time praying.
But no forgotten prayer, or other shortcoming, will stop God from being His good and loving self. The best example of this is found in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The verse doesn’t say, “Once we figured out how to live better, Christ died for us.” Or, “Because we prayed and read our Bible, Christ died for us.” It says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The truth is, we will never measure up. But no mistake or misstep can separate us from the love of God. So if you forget to pray, or if you stumble in your walk with God, remember that it doesn’t change the way He sees you—we can always turn back to Him to find that He still loves us and wants what’s best for us.
If I use the perfect words, or pray enough, God will hear me.
Up until the day of my interview, I had spent hours praying for God to provide the job. I wanted to keep my desires at the front of God’s mind. He has a lot going on. I felt like I needed to remind Him of my itty bitty job request so when it came time to answer, He would do what I needed Him to do.
But I’ve realized that if I think how well or frequently I pray will make the difference in whether or not God answers me, that’s suggesting that God is manipulated by what I do. Evidently, that’s what people during New Testament times thought as well! In Matthew 6:7-8, Jesus said,
When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
God knows what we need. We can pray to Him, and trust that He hears us—not because we prayed enough, or used eloquent words, but because He knows us, and cares for us. He won’t forget about us.
Prayer can help me get a specific outcome.
I did the research. I’ve figured out how much money I need to make. I’ve listed the pros and cons of taking on new responsibilities. I can see clearly how this will affect my family. I’ve got it all figured out . . . False!
The truth is, I rarely know what’s best, but God always does. This was not the first time I’ve prayed for a job. A few years earlier, I begged God for a position in another company that I thought for sure was best for my family, but I didn’t get it. I was disappointed. I was frustrated. I wondered why God wouldn’t answer my prayer.
It wasn’t wrong for me to plan what I thought was best, but as I would soon learn, although I plan my way, it is the Lord who sees and knows all, and He’s the one who directs my steps (Proverbs 16:9). In this case, the direction was a definitive “No” to the first job.
Fast forward to this past year. I finished the interview—the one I didn’t have time to pray for (at least the morning of)—and it went pretty well. A few weeks later, I received a job offer.
Looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t get the first job I thought was so right for me. The new job—the one I’m in right now—is so much better (by several measures!) than the other job I wanted, but it took a while to get here. God knew what He was doing, and the jobs I’ve held over the years have offered valuable experience that helped me qualify for this job.
I’m so glad God is led by His love for you and me. When we discuss our needs, fears, and hopes with our Father, we can find comfort in the relationship He offers us, and assurance that ultimately, the outcome of any situation sits perfectly in His wise, loving, and careful hands. Instead of approaching prayer as a box to check or a way to get what we want, we can thank God for the invitation to lean into His goodness. If nothing else, prayer is an open door to grow in nearness to the One who cares for us deeply, knows what’s best, and is trustworthy to work it all out for good!