“After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside to pray” (Mark 6:46).

Philip Yancey writes that when Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, he knew the differences between the two—because he had come down from heaven.

For Jesus, prayer connected him to his home and to his Father. He stayed in constant contact to fully grasp His Father’s will and to receive the power to carry it out. We need that same lifeline! In our confusing and often hostile world, guidance courage, and energy are essential. Yet we sometimes wonder about our lifeline of prayer. Is it genuinely effective? Do we receive real guidance from God when we pray? As we plead that He will heal or bless or protect, does it make a difference? Yancey concludes, “I have no better answer than the example of Jesus, who knew above any of us the wisdom of the Father and yet who felt a strong need to flood the heavens with requests.” Jesus has promised that if we ask we shall receive. So we ask. We lay our petitions before God, knowing that we can’t dictate his responses. We may well be disappointed that a cancer is not healed or an urgent request for spiritual awakening doesn’t happen. Yet we continue to ask, for Jesus says, “Ask and you will receive.” Receive what? We wrestle with that question in our spiritual journeys, and we find few easy answers in life’s enigmatic drama. Jesus, after all, did not simply have his Father “fix things.” Despite his agonized cries for relief in Gethsemane, Jesus was led to his crucifixion. When we cry out to the Father, at the core of our cry must be the willingness to say, as Jesus said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” At the same time the adventure of prayer brings about all sorts of “coincidences” and “answers.” Yancey writes, “When the disciples failed in their attempts to heal an afflicted boy, Jesus had a simple explanation: lack of prayer.”

Adapted from “The One Year Book of Encouragement”