Recently God showed me two very important things about prayer. The first was that prayer is not about begging God to do something he doesn’t really want to do. When we are praying for things that align with God’s word sometimes it can feel like we are literally begging God to care. The truth is, when we invest our hearts outside of ourselves into something enough to pray more than just a one-time prayer, our own compassion grows. God fuels this process of tension and frustration to build within us so that we will continue to pray and our love and compassion for those we are praying for grows. It is not us changing the heart and mind of God toward people, but God, through our prayers changes our hearts and minds. God called us to prayer because without it we become self-absorbed and without purpose. Unfortunately, for many of us our prayers sound a bit like Christmas wish lists. I’m not saying it’s wrong to ask God for things, but if our prayer time is centered around a desire for comfort for ourselves and those we love we will be self-centered, empty and without purpose. This is a very selfish and unbiblical approach to prayer and is unfortunately, why so many have not found a real connection with God. We were called to be like Jesus, and to be like Jesus is to step out of our own world, care for whom and what God cares about and be partners and partakers in God’s work. In many cases God has already said “yes” to some of our prayers and it may already be written in his word but he needs us to get on board and get motivated. This happens when we pray because when we petition God we become infused with God’s love and God’s power. The second thing God showed me is that often times during this process God will allow enough tension, frustration, love and compassion to build in us that he can then finally use us to take action. If he had asked us to to do it before we started praying, we wouldn’t have had the heart for it. We might look at the situation and think, “how sad, someone should do something” but after we have invested our hearts into praying for it, our hearts are changed and we see things we hadn’t seen before. God then begins to give us vision and courage to do things we may feel like we don’t know how to do but because we see a need, God’s love provides a confidence in us to do what must be done. These aren’t always big, dramatic things. Compassion is given away one small act at a time. Ask God to open your eyes each day and show you people around you who need compassion in any form. Commit to step out of your own world and give encouragement to the down trodden. Or simply meet an obvious need that might be right in front of you. This is what Jesus did and what he has called us all to do.