My sixth grade crush on a blond, freckle-face boy named Grant drove me to my knees. “God, prove that Grant likes me, okay? I’m going to count to 10. If he smiles at me before I stop, then that will be the sign. Amen.”
And so, the count would begin: “One…two…three…four…” And so would the desperation in my voice. “God, he hasn’t smiled yet. Please make him do it. Please. Five…six…seven…” Sure enough. I’d hit ten without receiving so much as a nod or a glance, so I’d change my ploy. After all, maybe Grant wasn’t in a smiley mood that day. Perhaps I should have asked that he prove his love for me by leaving his desk and walking to the pencil sharpener instead.
Thankfully my prayer life has improved over time. As critical as my request seemed to me then, I now understand that it was pointless. So was a request that the Pharisees made of Jesus.
Mark 8:11 says, “When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.”
Jesus didn’t answer. “When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.’ So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake” (vv. 12, 13).
The Pharisees’ request that Jesus prove His authority through a miraculous sign was pointless. He’d already healed the sick, given sight to the blind, restored hearing to the deaf, and fed thousands with a few loaves and fish. What more did they want? They’d seen Him in action and knew what He was capable of doing yet they asked for a miracle to prove who He was. Their unbelief drew a heavy sigh from deep within His spirit, a sigh of disappointment, perhaps.
Sometimes people today pray such things as, “God, if You’re real, prove it.” We ask for signs, for evidences of His existence. When we’re honestly seeking for Him, He answers. But sometimes, when the request comes from a defiant heart, God might sigh deeply in His spirit and remain silent. After all, the evidence already exists – the miracles of DNA and of a baby’s birth proclaim Intelligent Design. The complexity of creation shouts His presence. Lives transformed through prayer and forgiveness say there is a God who is real. Perhaps we need to forego the request and instead start living by faith.
Sometimes we ask God to prove His love for us. Why waste our breath when He’s already answered by sending Jesus to pay our death penalty?
Sometimes we ask Him whether or not we should share the Gospel with our neighbor or coworker. Again – pointless. He’s already told us that we’re ambassadors of the salvation message. We ought to pray for their hearts to be prepared to receive it, and then for the right opportunity to present it.
How many times do we pray pointless prayers? Writing this blog has been a good exercise for me, forcing me to examine my heaven-directed requests. I pray that God will continually bring this question to mind when I’m on my knees.
What other pointless prayers might we be praying?