I am sure you have heard it before. “Pray for me…” or “I pray that…” The uses of the word pray in the English language (and all languages actually) vary differently. This could communicate a genuine commitment to get on one’s knees and ask God for X, Y, or Z. Or, it could also be a comment to show support. “I’ll pray for you,” when in reality, we know that we won’t. The different uses in language have shaped how we understand prayer over the years. Many people use it not knowing any significance other than that it’s what believers do. It’s a thing on the Christian checklist, so I better use it enough times around my church friends.
Amid all of these varying uses, I can’t help but wonder what we should really be praying about. In connection with that thought, there has been a recent buzz over the lottery. In the tri-state area, the lottery was up at what was probably record highs, somewhere around 650 million dollars. I don’t follow the lottery numbers that closely, but usually something over 200 million sparks a lot of interest. Imagine what 650 million dollars did to ignite interest. As many of my colleagues were buying tickets, I occasionally heard the phrase, “Oh, I am praying that I win.” Should we pray to win the lottery?
What Should We Pray For? Why Do We Pray?
Betty: Betty is a single mother, who despite her faithfulness to the church, has been through a whirlwind of emotions. She finally got a divorce from her abusive husband and is desperate to pay for her only child’s upbringing. She doesn’t have the best job ever, but she gets by with what she has. Before she goes to bed, Betty always prays, asking God to help provide her a better job. Her son doesn’t have the nicest clothes and would like to be able to afford something nice for him.
Suzanne: Suzanne hasn’t had the troubles that Betty has had to face. She grew up in a middle-class family, graduated from an ivy-league school and gave up her law practice to be a stay at home mother. Her husband makes more than enough to provide for the family, along with a few luxury items like vacation cottage on a lake with Jet Skis. Suzanne and her family are also religious. They attend church every week, but Suzanne can’t help but wonder how nice it would be to have more security. She prays for a promotion for her husband so they can rest easily.
Is there any major difference between the two examples above? While you may be more understanding towards Betty because she has had a more “difficult” life, there isn’t much difference between the two. What is it that makes us think Betty’s prayers are better? Does Suzanne’s prayers sound more like greed? In fact, both women understand God in the same light. God, according to how they are praying, is someone to come swoop in and take away all of their troubles. In this situation, it’s by bringing more money into the situation.
I’m sure you are thinking the same thing as me. This isn’t the worst. In fact, we often hear (or pray ourselves) people praying, asking God to do something. In order to convince God, we need to offer something. “God, if you do this, I will do that.” or “God, I’ve only asked for a few things, so please do this…” News flash people: If you are praying like this, you worship a Genie, not God.
God isn’t someone to convince or beg for something to occur. That doesn’t mean that prayer isn’t important. It’s just for much more than receiving things. It’s much more than a Christmas list from Santa Claus. In fact, prayer seems to be more about communicating and aligning ourselves with God, than the alternative.
Should We Ask to Win the Lottery?
Beyond misunderstanding the reason for praying, praying to win the lottery involves so much more. It means that you buy into the belief that your life will be better if you have a lot more money right away. This is far from the truth. Financial Samurai recently wrote that getting money too fast will destroy you. In part of the article, Sam writes about how people blow their money away if you get it too quickly. In other words, you don’t appreciate what you have and waste it away.
Praying to win the lottery could be asking for ‘a poke in the eye with a sharp stick’ (to use a phrase that my mother-in-law frequently uses). You could be asking for something that could actually ruin you more than help you. It’s again, part of the misguided belief that money will solve all of your problems. Will you really be disciplined to manage your money well if you were to come across several millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars in a matter of a day? Will you continue to tell yourself that you aren’t rich, even with your newly-acquired wealth?
Instead of praying for some distant jackpot or lottery, it would be much better to do something about your finances. God never even hints that we should be anything from active in everything that we do. We need to be active. To put it bluntly, stop praying for miracles and start doing something that will change your situation for the better. You may not be able to change everything (alone), but it is much better than the alternative of praying to win the lottery.
Do you find yourself wishing you had more money?
Why do you think we should pray?