The problem with prayer: We're not in control

You don't hear it too often, but there's a problem with prayer. You and I don't control the results. God does.

Now that rankles everybody, especially control freaks, but if we're honest with ourselves, we singles like being our own boss. Our unmarried status exempts us from consulting with a spouse when we make decisions. We have a lot more freedom than those ringged-up folks do.

For us Christians, there's the matter of our sinful nature. We never lose it until we cross heaven's threshold. It's the side that encourages us to be greedy, selfish, and proud, just the opposite of what God is looking for.

So let's take a run at the problem with prayer.

Problem with prayer: Never going to change


First, let's recognize this problem is never going to change. It's not going away. God will always be in charge of the results, not us.

Most of us (including me) have at some time figured if we want to control the results of prayer, we have to control God. That looks downright idiotic in print, but who of us hasn't been guilty of trying? (Show of hands not required.)

This cockeyed strategy has resulted in thousands of books on prayer featuring some kind of formula or secret that will get us the results we want. These ideas are no more than sophisticated attempts to manipulate God.

God must find that either hilarious or insulting. Either way, he's not going along with it. Fortunately for us, he does not express his disapproval with lightning bolts, or we'd all be goners.

Only after years and years of failing with flattery or arm-twisting do most of us wise up and conclude, "Hey. This isn't working."

No loopholes

Christianity is a faith without loopholes. Unlike the law, it cannot be circumvented by a clever flimflam artist. I, for one, am glad it's like it is.

Our Father is a God of holiness and integrity. He is also sovereign over the entire Universe, a fact we often overlook. In practical terms, that means he is open to requests, not demands. He is our Father. We are his children. Jesus spoke about this relationship to teach us God is above us.

God's will is supreme. Ours is not.


It's crucial for us to get this truth right. Until we do, prayer is a waste of time. That's a problem for us until we surrender our will to God. Once we start to want what God wants for us, prayer begins to work.

That's a massive leap, one too big for many believers to make. Instead, they keep demanding their way, all the time.

Let's stop for a moment and notice exceptions. Sometimes we do get exactly what we ask for in prayer. How does that happen?

It occurs when our desires line up exactly with God's desires in that situation. That will prove a rarity until we give up our selfishness.

The more God-centered we are and the less self-centered we are, the more often our prayers will get answered.

Yeah, but how do we do that?

The next big step


In my own life, it took several decades for me to realize that in the long run, what God wants for me is better than what I want for me. That light bulb went on when I finally understood:

  • God loves me more than I love myself;
  • God knows me better than I know myself;
  • God is the wisest being in the universe;
  • God is omniscient—he knows the future;
  • God wants what's best for me.

That last one is the kicker. I had a career in mind when I got out of high school. I believed with all my being that was what I was meant to do. When I couldn't do it, I was heartbroken. In the past 50 years I have learned that people in that field were routinely cheated by their companies and were grossly underpaid.

Instead, I pursued writing, made a decent living at it, and turned it into this web site that helps spread the gospel to single people all over the world.

Because God had something better for me.

Don't be discouraged. My story doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't pursue the career or dreams you want, as long as they are legitimate and God-honoring. Millions of people have very successful careers that are blessed by God.

Your own light bulb moment


Are you beginning to understand your own problem with prayer and how to change it from an obstacle into an opportunity?

Reread my little list in the previous section. It applies to you too. It comes down to that age-old question of trusting God. That, single friend, is very hard to do. It's not hard because God isn't trustworthy. It's hard because we don't want to give up the steering wheel.

We want our own way, darn it, and until each of us makes up a little list like mine, we'll keep running the little car of our life into the ditch.

The biggest misconception in this problem with prayer is God is a spoilsport. We think he's either got something against us or that what he wants for us will be boring. Or small. Or in some way just not as great as having our own way.

The big question for singles

I saved the big question for last: "Why won't God answer my prayer for a spouse?"

That question may be why God sent you to this web site in the first place. When you've been praying for a godly spouse most of your life and they haven't shown up, the natural thing to ask is, "God, don't you want me to get married?"

Here's my rather disappointing but truthful take on this issue: I never got an answer in my own life. I'm not one of those types who claims God is always speaking to him, but I've tried for over 50 years to understand this and I don't.


I didn't give up. What I did—and this was one of the hardest things I've ever done—was turn that over to God. He knows my desire. He heard my thousands of prayers.

But I'm trusting him with it. Whether this web site, written by a single guy for other singles, is God's answer, I honestly don't know.

I continue to love God. I'm not mad at him any more. I'm not dissatisfied. I'm thankful for all the incredible things he's done for me.

And, because I accept that it's God's right to control my life, I'm a lot happier. I feel, after years of frustration, I have solved my problem with prayer. You can too.