Sometimes the most discouraging thing you do is pray, especially when your prayers go unanswered because you are not praying for the best things. But the encouragement throughout the Scriptures is that we keep on praying.
While we are tempted to spend the bulk of our time praying for a change in our circumstances, the Scriptures encourage us to keep on praying for a change in our character. New Covenant promises focus on God’s intentions to change us into the image of Christlikeness. Prayer that reflects this desire are prayers that are always answered. They are fully in keeping with Jesus’ name, that he might save his people from their sins. So while we CAN pray for a change in our circumstances at anytime, we SHOULD pray for a change in character all the time.
This is important to remember, especially when you are reading and praying the Psalms. Our Psalm for this week is Psalm 71. In that psalm, the author is praying to be delivered from unjust and cruel men. This is fully in keeping with Old Covenant promises made to the Jews. God had promised them a presence in the land and prosperity as a people if they were only to trust God and obey him. Not every individual person would experience long life and incredible prosperity, but as a people they would. This is what God had promised them.
In the New Covenant, the promises are better. God’s promises to us, once again, are centered on the prospect of making us like Christ. God promises to work everything together in the life of each believer to that end. It is not a general promise to the church at the exclusion of an individual promise to each believer. And it is not a promise to change our circumstances to adjust to outward prosperity but a promise to change our character so that we are conformed to the true prosperity of the eternal riches we have in Christ. Keep on praying prayers like this.
When one of us is about to leave on a trip, like a few months ago when Jami was going out of town to Germany, Parker said, “I’m going to miss you all the day.” He anticipated the continual absence of Jami’s presence until she came home.
Our psalmist says a similar thing only in a much more positive light.
Psalm 71:8 (ESV)
8My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.
In the midst of the cries for a change in circumstance, this Old Covenant believer had enough understanding of the character of God to continually praise him even when his prayers for a change in his circumstances had not yet been answered.
So keep on praying, all the day. Yes, you may pray for a change in circumstances. Jesus is Lord over everything, and his death and resurrection give you the privilege of asking what you will. But you must pray for a change in character. That is a prayer that God always promises to answer, and it is fully in keeping with his New Covenant promises. Answers to these prayers will never put you to shame.