Today I was reading a list of prayer requests on the blog of someone I know. I was taken aback by the, let's be generous, lack of thought in what was identified. I am happy enough to pray for safe travel, but that flights won't be disrupted by (quote) 'impending BA strikes or volcanoes'??! So, is it OK for other people's flights to be disrupted instead? 'That we will all have a good time,' well I hope you do, but beware what you pray for... what might 'good' mean in this case? Having a ball or growing in understanding? I'll pray for the latter, but don't see why anyone is entitled to the former, sorry.
Then there was the request for the 'Spirit of the living God to fall upon the people and country' which sounds ever so holy but means what precisely? Surely if God is omnipresent, and if 'the Spirit blows where it wills' then God is already active before we ask.
To be fair, these are selected from a (much) longer list, most of which is more helpful, but the point remains: prayer should not be 'please God bless me/mine thus and so'. Some of my best conversations have arisen sat waiting for delayed planes/trains/coaches, some of the yuckiest experiences have turned out to be the most important... God has a habit of answering in ways we don't anticipate.
All of which reminds me of this prayer:
I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.
— Prayer of an Unknown Confederate Soldier