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What Your Prayers Tell You about You

Photo of Buddy BellBuddy Bell | Bio

Buddy Bell

Buddy is a native of Montgomery, Alabama. After working in campus and preaching ministry at churches in Alabama and Florida, Buddy returned to Montgomery in 1996 to serve as senior minister of Landmark. Buddy leads Landmark through preaching, overseeing the small groups ministry, and, with the Elders, casting vision for the church. He is married to Stephanie and they have four children and two son-in-laws: Laura (Charlie), Lindsey (Ben), Luke, and Lincoln…AND he is the proud Grandbuddy to 5 precious grandchildren.

When stress goes wrong, it turns into anxiety. And anxiety can mess you up! It’s corrosive on your insides. It’s explosive on your relationships. Think about it: when do we say the hurtful things we end up regretting? It’s usually when we’re stressed out. When do we cave into our worst decisions? Typically when we’re stressed out.

You can prevent a lot of destruction by remaining calm during the storm.

So how do you remain calm during the storm? Here’s the Apostle Paul’s answer: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Are you anxious about something? Then it’s time to pray about it. Do you believe that God is near and good and powerful? Then pray.

What you really believe will come out in how and how often you pray.

I love the story of the father who asked his son to move a boulder. It was the beginning of a hot Saturday when he explained to his son that it would be really nice for their landscaping if he could bring up a boulder from the creek. All he had to do that day, the father explained, was get that boulder moved up to the house.

Well, the kid pulled and pushed, pushed and pulled. He tried attaching ropes. He tried using leverage. He did everything he could possibly think to do, but at the end the day, it had only moved maybe five feet closer to the house. Exhausted, dirty, and sweaty, he went up to his dad and said, “Dad, I can’t do it.”

“Yes, you can.”

“No, I can’t. I’ve tried everything I know to do, and I can’t do it.”

“Actually, son, you haven’t tried everything. You’ve left one thing out. You never asked me to help.”

Do you believe that God is good? Do you believe that God is near? Then it will be your first impulse—not last resort—to ask God to help.

Think about all that the disciples had seen Jesus do: heal lepers with a touch, heal sickness from a distance, calm storms, drive out evil spirits, raise corpses. Yet consider the disciples’ response to a far easier dilemma: how to feed a large crowd of people. A multi-thousand-people crowd gathers to hear Jesus preach, and by dinner time, they’re hungry. So Jesus decides to ask one of His disciples an impossible question: “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5). The next verse tells us why Jesus asked it: “He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do” (John 6:6).

The disciples have no clue what to do with this impossible request. “Can’t we just send the people away?” “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” “All we have are a few loaves and a few fish. What good are these going to do for so many people?”

It’s impossible. Exactly! The solution is standing right there. And yet it never once occurred to even one of them to ask Jesus for help. Jesus stepped in, and we have the miraculous “feeding of the 5,000.”

You discover what you know about God by paying attention to how and how often you go to God in prayer.

What is the boulder you’re facing? Don’t start like the disciples did and count what you have. Okay, let me count up my resources, my ability, my wisdom, my knowledge. No, start with God.

And I’d like to give you a challenge which could change your prayer life: learn to be specific.

Not the, “Lord, would you bless all people everywhere for all time” prayers. A very specific prayer is a very sincere prayer.

This is the difference between telling someone, “Hey, let’s get together sometime,” and saying, “Hey, I really need to talk to you. Are you free where I could come by on Friday from 7 to 8?” That’s specific.

When you pray specific prayers, you get to see God respond in specific ways.

Let’s say you’ve got a big meeting with your boss coming up tomorrow, and you and your boss have had some tension. Now you could pray generally, “Lord, bless my meeting with my boss tomorrow.” That would be better than nothing. But I think it would be way better if you say, “Lord, I’m a little nervous about this. I’ve got to meet the boss, and you know that we’ve been a little bit tense with each other. We’re meeting tomorrow at 2:00. Would you please give me wisdom to say the right thing so he can understand where I’m coming from? Would you give me some sleep tonight so I’ll feel rested? Would you prepare his heart for us to have a gracious conversation?”

I like to open up my day planner each morning and just pray specifically through my day. “Lord, this morning I’ve got to prep for Sunday’s sermon; please let me say what You want me to say. I’ve got lunch with this member of the church; help it to be encouraging. I’ve got a meeting with this couple that’s struggling with their marriage; help me have wisdom. We’ve got a search committee coming tonight with a new youth minister prospect; please guide that meeting.”

If you see God’s goodness and power, and if you see all the problems we face in this world, then nobody has to beg you to come to a prayer meeting. Do you watch the news and see the shootings? Do you see the number of babies being slaughtered through abortion? You see how many families are falling apart?

If you see all that, and you believe in God’s power, then you cannot help but pray.

And when you pray, you will find that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

And I’d like to give you a challenge which could change your prayer life: learn to be specific.

*A special thanks to Max Lucado whose writings inspired some of the thoughts in this article.