How to be at peace when we pray

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Years ago, my teenage daughter had to deal with a conflict at school. I wanted to charge in, confront someone, and resolve the matter. But, I didn’t want to be hasty so I asked my spiritual mentor, Loretta, what I should do.

She looked me squarely in the eye and said, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

 “I know that Loretta,” I whined. “But, what should I do?”

“There you go again,” she said. “You always go back to the doing.”

I raised my eyebrows and waited for some practical advice.

She repeated Isaiah 26: 3, leaving a huge question mark in my mind. Could the answer be that simple? What if I actually applied that verse to my situation?

I opted to pray about my daughter’s conflict and wait for a green light despite the Tiger Mom in me growling to straighten everything out. When I kept my eyes on the Lord, my anger cooled and a soothing peace settled over me. I knew to not get involved. My daughter handled the matter on her own, and in the process I saw how God used that situation to work in her heart too.

Since then, I’ve had to apply this verse repeatedly—keeping my eyes on the Lord instead of my circumstances. And more recently, focusing on Him instead of my prayers. Here’s what happened:

Last night, my heart felt heavy because I’d spent much of the day fasting and praying for several people facing somber issues. When I told my husband how drained I felt, he said, “You don’t just pray for others, you absorb what’s going on in their lives even when they’re not related to you.”

“That’s true,” I said. “So why can’t I pray without feeling so desperate?”

“Because you feel responsible for the outcome!”

His comment was spot on. I’ve always felt responsible for my loved one’s well being and happiness. I try to fix them or improve a situation. So it makes sense that I pray for others with the same mindset. I want to control the outcome of my prayers. I want this person healed. That person to find a job. This person to draw near to God. That marriage restored. Despite my human limitations, I think I know what’s best for each person.

But what happens when God doesn’t answer my prayer requests that way that I’d like? It’s not just my disappointment and concern for the individual, there’s a part of me that wonders if I could have done something to make my prayers more effective. Maybe I should have fasted to show how important this means to me. Or, rounded up more prayer warriors to storm the heavens.

Then again . . .

  • What if I stopped praying as though the outcome of these prayers hinged on my efforts? 
  • What if I stopped praying to persuade God to do things my way and left the outcome in His capable, sovereign hands?
  • What if I interceded for others knowing God can use my prayers to change me too?
  • What if I trusted God to hear the cry of my heart as I laid these petitions at His feet?
  • What if I focused on the depth and breadth of God’s love for these people that I pray for instead of fixating on the length, depth, frequency of my prayers?
  • What if I believed God’s sees and knows it all. He’s got a plan for these folks that exceeds my imagination?

When I woke up this morning, my prayer requests still remain and the list continues to grow. But when I read Isaiah 26:3, I was reminded that I need to keep my eyes and thoughts on the Lord who is trustworthy and orchestrates a thousands details in people’s lives to achieve His purposes. Imagine the difference when I’m focused on Him instead of fixating on the prayer requests and their outcome.

God may not give me the answers I’m looking for when I pray, but He gives me what I need in that moment. He gives me His perfect peace. And I trust the Almighty God to breathe His peace into the people I pray for.

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them” (1 Timothy 2:1 NLT).