I do not know where I went wrong with my sons. It primarily has to do with the football teams they have decided are their favorites. I thought I was on track with the first five in that their favorite college football team would be the West Virginia University Mountaineers. But, that sixth son of ours, Jamin, has blown it all by favoring Virginia Tech! It shames me to the dust that one of my sons is a Hokie.
To make matters absolutely worse, two of our sons pull for the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL ranks. Here, again, it is Jamin that goes against the Branch grain. And, I was not aware of it until recently that Jeshua is a Cowboys fan, too, and has been since a kid growing up in my house!
Here is what he told me. He once employed an important point of my preaching on behalf of the Cowboys. He prayed for them to win the Super Bowl during an altar call. It was January 28, 1996. My boys sometimes complained that they never got to see a full Super Bowl because we typically were in church during at least the first half of every NFL championship game.
So, Jeshua thought he would utilize my advice to “cast your burden upon the Lord at the altar” during a sermon I preached at the Willow Island Church, and, coming to the altar, prayed specifically that the Cowboys would win the game that was going on at that very moment. That is certainly not the type of thing I had in mind. But, in in his mind, it worked. At the altar, he cast his burden upon the Lord on behalf of the Cowboys. Apparently, the Lord came through for him about the Cowboys. The Cowboys won the Super Bowl that evening, January 28, 1996.
Say what you want to about the outcome of Jeshua’s praying, but, truly, prayer is a remarkable practice in terms of expected results. There is something extremely dynamic about entering into dialogue with the awesome God of the universe. Where does it begin for us to enter into prayer with God?
First, prayer is not to be contrived on the basis of superstition. I inadvertently once fell into that trap myself. It was not only wrong on my part, but it does not work. Neither, should prayer be considered in terms of pulling God’s strings to get our desires granted. Rather, effective prayer is born out of personal relationship with God, and is to be expedited through faith in God.
Second, we should keep in mind that prayer involves dialogue and should not be relegated to mere monologue. In so many terms, state your case—-God allows it—-but give God opportunity to speak back—-we must allow it. God speaks to us in concrete terms based upon what He has revealed to us in His Word and through the assured and clear leadership of His Holy Spirit. Listen with intent.
Inherent with praying to God is the assent that His will be done. This understanding comes by way of the teaching of Jesus Christ about praying. In teaching us to pray (such as in the Lord’s Prayer), the Lord taught that we should ask that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in Heaven.” God’s will is absolutely carried out in Heaven, and we should expect nothing less here on earth with our concerns and requests. After all, God’s will carries forth the best results.
An important prayer factor I learned from reading the Bible is to pray for the completed victory. Concerning whatever may be your request, do not pray to the end that only partial results are experienced. Rather, pray that every base of your request is covered. I think that the Lord likes that kind of praying.
Because the Cowboys have not won the Super Bowl since Jeshua’s prayer, January 28, 1996, I have concluded that the Cowboys win only as kids’ prayers prevail. But, if Jeshua and Jamin try to pray on the Cowboy’s behalf to win it all because of the Cowboys’ potential this year, my prayer is that God will not answer their prayer. We Branches are very competitive among ourselves.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.