“As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength (Psalm 138:3, NLT).

Many have wrong ideas about prayer. Some see God as Santa Claus, who watches to see if you’re behaving or not and answers accordingly. Others see him as a big vending machine. If you say and do the right things, what you want slides through the slot. Still others think of him as a cosmic butler, ready to do their bidding. Of course, when the prayed for answers don’t materialize, they blame him and get angry or turn away.

God is none of these. Prayer doesn’t work like that. It’s not a way to get things and God isn’t keeping a list of who’s naughty or nice. He does answer, just not always in ways we want or anticipate. He answers with himself. He gives us the assurance he is with us and on our side. He leads us beside the calm waters and restores our soul (Psalm 23). In solitude and silence, wait for him and enjoy his presence, which is worth so much more than anything else we could ask for.

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