When you pray, do you start with the problem or the solution?
Would you like your prayers to be more effective? Would you like to experience a real connection with God when you pray, and know that your prayers are heard?
Today, we’re going to dig deep into the heart of prayer. We’re going to look at how Jesus thought about things, how he saw the world, and explore some of the ways he prayed, and how he wanted us to pray.
If you’ve been listening to The Bible Speaks to You Podcast for very long, you know I talk a lot about this, how Jesus thought and acted. And this week we’re going to look specifically at how embracing this mindset of Jesus changes the way we pray.
How do you start your prayers?
Let’s say you’ve got a problem or a challenge you’re facing. It could be something personal, something at school or work, or at church. It could be something on a larger scale that affects your community or even the whole world.
How do you pray about this situation?
All too often I hear people start with the problem when they pray. They try to explain everything to God, sometimes several times, as if God doesn’t already understand what’s really going on.
Jesus said God already understands what we actually need.
your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:8 NIV
You don’t have to explain everything to God. He already knows exactly what you need, which is not always what you pray for.
The basic premise in this approach to prayer is that you start with the problem and then ask God to fix it.
I’ve seen over many years in my own life and with many others, that when you start with the problem in your prayers, you’re more likely to end up with the problem.
It’s not really the most effective way to pray and it is certainly not the way Jesus prayed or taught us to pray.
When you pray, start with the solution
The I’ve-got-a-problem-that-needs-to-be-fixed mindset is focused on the problem. But Jesus had a God-is-the-solution mindset when he prayed. Jesus always started his prayers with the conviction that since God is present and supreme, the solution is already at hand.
I’m not saying we should ignore our problems or pretend they’re not there, but it’s a question of focus.
What is your starting point? Where are your thoughts? What are you preoccupied with?
The I’ve-got-a-problem-that-needs-to-be-fixed approach to prayer usually begins with some variation of: I’ve got such and such a problem, Lord, and if it’s your will, please provide a solution.
Sometimes we even tell God exactly how to fix the problem.
This prayer is for the birds
Now, there are sometimes when a prayer that begins in this way is beautifully answered. I knew a fellow years ago, who loved birds, all birds. I mean, he had a deep, deep, abiding love for birds. And he had several as pets.
One day he was on the roof of some building because there was an injured pigeon up there. Now, I have to mention that this was in New York City. Most people in New York are not particularly fond of pigeons, but this man had great compassion for this injured bird.
There were several people trying to help the bird, but it was not doing any good. It looked like the bird just wasn’t going to survive its injury and in fact it appeared to be lifeless on the rooftop. My friend uttered a simple little prayer, something to this effect: “God, we have an injured bird down here. We need Your help.” Or something like that.
It was not a complicated prayer. It was not a theological dissertation on the nature of God and His love for and protection of all His creatures. It was a simple plea for help.
He then told me, with awe and tears in his voice, that another pigeon flew down to the injured bird and nestled up next to it for several minutes. The injured bird suddenly shook itself, gathered its energy, and then, with the other pigeon, flew away.
Look at this simple little prayer. Now, on the surface, you could say my friend started with the problem, that there was an injured bird. And that’s how I used to see this situation. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that he actually started his prayer with love and the expectation that God could and would do something.
What do your prayers really start with?
The first words you say, silently or out loud, may not be how your prayer actually starts. You might say or think about the problem, like my friend did with the injured pigeon, but actually your words about the problem were prayed in the context of your deep conviction that God was willing and able to resolve the situation.
Prayer is not just about the words that come out of your mouth or your heart. It’s about the deep trust you have in God as the solution provider.
When you have this deep conviction and assurance of God’s love and power to heal a given situation, that is your starting point, even when it may not come out in the words of your prayer. Although, I must say, I find it incredibly helpful to begin my prayers by consciously acknowledging God’s presence and power.
This is how Jesus taught us, and still teaches us, how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. We know this prayer so well. Or do we?
We know the words by heart and may repeat them many times each week, or even several times a day. But Jesus said,
In this manner, therefore, pray: Matthew 6:9 NKJV
It was not a formula of words to say in a particular order, although we have done that to some degree. It was, and still is, a method, a way, an approach to how we should pray.
When you pray the Lords’ Prayer
And what is this method or approach? What is the manner in which we should pray?
Well, how does Jesus begin the prayer? Does he start with wanting you to tell God what your problem is? Are we supposed to explain things to God? Do we start with begging for God’s help?
Not at all.
The Lord’s Prayer starts with acknowledging our relationship with God and then focuses on the nature, glory, kingdom, and will of God in heaven.
This is the methodology of the Lords’ Prayer. It begins with the solution. Whatever problem you may have, God is always the solution. God’s nature, glory, kingdom, and will is the starting point for effective prayer and the foundation for resolution of any problem.
Jesus is basically saying that when you pray, don’t start your prayer with asking God to solve a problem. Start by acknowledging your relationship with Him and bask in His glory and power, His supremacy in heaven and on earth.
It’s not about praying for what you want, but asking God to show you what His will is in heaven and to bring that same will to pass here on earth.
When you pray, focus on the solution
Jesus’s focus is always on the kingdom of God. In fact, just a little later in the Sermon on the Mount, after he told us how to pray, Jesus emphasizes this.
seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33 NKJV
Why was Jesus so preoccupied with the kingdom of God? And what did this have to do with the way he prayed, and how he wanted us to pray?
If the kingdom of God was so important to Jesus, shouldn’t it have the same priority for us?
Think for just a minute what heaven is like. It is a spiritual realm where there is no discord, disease, despair, decay, or death. The Bible tells us
He [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. Revelation 21:4 NLT
So let me ask this question: In heaven, are there any unresolved problems, unhealed diseases, or unreformed sinners? Is there anything in heaven that needs to be fixed?
No, there are not.
Bearing witness to the truth when you pray
To the degree you are conscious of the fact that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and within you, your prayers become less a question of trying to fix or heal a problem. You’re simply bearing witness to what is already, always has been, and always will be, true in heaven.
You’re not praying for anything to change. You’re praying to open your eyes to see, or you could say, bear witness to, what is true in heaven right now.
Jesus told Pilate this was the reason he was on earth.
For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. John 18:37 NKJV
Since we are Jesus’s followers, then this is also why we are on earth, to bear witness to the truth.
Now, a lot of Christians would say the primary reason Jesus came to earth was to save people from their sins. Others would include healing disease and disability as a reason Jesus came, or to teach us how to love God and our neighbors as ourselves.
Jesus certainly did all these things and so much more, but his ultimate goal, or focus, was not to fix all these problems but to bear witness here on earth, to the nature and glory of God, which he saw in heaven.
The only reason Jesus was able to forgive sin, heal disease, raise the dead, feed thousands of people without much food, and everything else he did, was because he saw what was true in heaven and he knew this heaven was present every moment.
There is no sin, diseases, disability, death, or lack of anything in heaven. Jesus saw that so clearly that it appeared here on earth.
This came very naturally to Jesus, but for you and me it’s a big mindset shift. We have to quit believing everything the five material senses say is true on earth, and ask God what is true in the kingdom of heaven. And then concentrate on that.
This is why Jesus told Nicodemus
“I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, [or born from above] you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” John 3:3 NLT
It makes sense really. In order to see the kingdom of God, to bear witness to the truth, to what is true in heaven, you have to experience a spiritual rebirth.
We need to have a more spiritual sense of our origin and identity as children of God, instead of focusing on birth as our origin or our identity as mere material beings in the material world.
Jesus was so conscious of what was true in heaven and that since heaven is at hand, it was also true on earth. This was actually a major component of his mindset. It was the basis of how he looked at people and situations and how he prayed.
That’s why his goal was not to fix things, although he did, but to bear witness to the truth.
Following Jesus’s example when you pray
So how can you and I follow Jesus more closely in this way of thinking, of bearing witness to truth?
Well, the first step may simply be to admit that it is possible, that you actually have the ability to see what is true in heaven.
Now, this may seem like a bit of a stretch, but only if you’re trying to do it with the human mind and the human abilities.
You’ll never see the kingdom of heaven with the five material senses or the brilliance of the human intellect.
Paul says spiritual things must be revealed to us by the Spirit.
God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 1 Corinthians 2:10 NLT
Have you ever wondered what the deep secrets of God are? Well, when the Spirit reveals them to you, they’re no longer secrets. But when you try to understand God and the things of the Spirit through the five material senses and the human mind, they will always remain a secret.
Paul says explains this just a few verses later in
But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 1 Corinthians 2:14 NLT
Being spiritually minded
One of the next things you can do to follow Jesus in bearing witness to the truth in the way you think and pray is to be more spiritually minded.
And how do we be more spiritually minded?
It’s really about what direction you’re walking and what your priorities are. Are you preoccupied with material things and people’s opinions, chasing what the world says is important? Or are you getting closer to God, striving to know and do His will, feeling more of His love, and expressing that love to everyone around you?
When your real desire is to be more spiritually minded, your thoughts, prayers, and actions will guide you there.
Exploring how Jesus healed people
Another thing I have found really helpful in learning to bear witness to what is true in heaven like Jesus did is to read an account of Jesus healing someone, where there are enough details to give you an idea of what Jesus could have been thinking.
a messenger arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. He told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher [Jesus] now.” Luke 8:49 NLT
To the messenger, that meant it was too late,; there was nothing left to do, no hope left.
But how did Jesus respond? More importantly, What did he see? What was he bearing witness to?
But when Jesus heard what had happened, he said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith, and she will be healed.” Luke 8:50 NLT
To Jesus, the situation was not hopeless. Why? Because he saw what was true in heaven, that there is no death.
Think of what Jesus said to the mourners at Jairus’s house.
The house was filled with people weeping and wailing, but he said, “Stop the weeping! She isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.” Luke 8:52 NLT
What did Jesus see?
How can Jesus say that? What was he thinking? Or more importantly, what was Jesus seeing that no one else could see?
He continued to bear witness to the truth, that there is no death in heaven, and that since heaven is at hand, there could be no death at hand.
To everyone else present, it appeared the little girl was raised from the dead. But to Jesus, she was alive all along in the kingdom of heaven. He simply bore witness to that fact.
My point is to take some of the accounts of Jesus healing someone and pray to discern what Jesus was thinking and praying. Then take those ideas and apply them to your own life.
If you’re facing a challenge, ask yourself: What would Jesus think or say in this situation? What would he see as true about this in the kingdom of heaven? Ask God to show you too.
It’s obviously not just a matter of saying the words Jesus did. To follow Jesus’s example of healing and restoration, you have to actually see what he saw. And the only way to see that is for God to reveal it to you spiritually, as I mentioned earlier. You can’t see or understand what is true in heaven with the material senses or the human intellect.
The problem is we’re usually more likely to believe what the five material senses tell us than we are able to discern and believe what God is revealing to us through the Spirit.
So another thing that’s helpful in this process of seeing what’s true in heaven as Jesus did, is become more aware of and strengthen your relationship with God. Why? So you will hear His voice and trust His wisdom more than you trust what the world is telling you.
There are lots of other things that can be helpful in embracing in your own life the way Jesus saw what was true in heaven. But I’ll mention just one more for now. It’s to practice all these ideas in your daily life.
When challenges come up, ask yourself: What is true about this situation in the kingdom of heaven? Then be quiet and listen for an answer. The more you do this, the better you’ll get at hearing God’s voice.
Your prayers will no longer be an attempt to fix or change something or to get God to change something. More and more, your prayers will become a joyful opportunity to bear witness to what is true in heaven right now.
Photo Credit: Ben White
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
Matthew 6:8 NIV
8 your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Matthew 6:9 NKJV
9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
Matthew 6:33 NKJV
33 seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Revelation 21:4 NLT
4 He [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.
John 18:37 NKJV
37 For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.
John 3:3 NLT
3 “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, [or born from above] you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
1 Corinthians 2:10 NLT
10 God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.
1 Corinthians 2:14 NLT
14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.
Luke 8:49 NLT
49 a messenger arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. He told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher [Jesus] now.”
Luke 8:50 NLT
50 But when Jesus heard what had happened, he said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith, and she will be healed.”
Luke 8:52 NLT
52 The house was filled with people weeping and wailing, but he said, “Stop the weeping! She isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”