Praying Is Different Than Wishing


This summer, I was laying out by my parent’s pool one evening and I saw two shooting stars within a span of five minutes. I smiled and wished upon those comets, just for the fun of it.  There’s a part of me that will always have a child’s imagination and, for the duration of a story, I’m willing to pretend there’s a Neverland or whatever you wish upon a star really does come true. But does it really?

According to Greek mythology, Atlas was a man condemned by the gods to hold up the universe for eternity. If you ever see a sculpture of Atlas, you’ll see every muscle in his body straining as he holds the weight of the heavens on his shoulders. It’s this image that comes to mind when I think of humanity without God: muscles heaving, shifting our position to make the weight of the world more bearable. We do this in many ways. We escape reality through books and movies and video games and we do silly things like close our eyes and blow on dandelions and wish on stars. But the story ends and the comet fades, and there is always reality. Atlas is still heaving, still trying to make his position more bearable.

Some people assume that the act of praying is just like wishing on a star. Maybe you’ll get lucky and your prayer will be answered. But friend, it isn’t like that — it’s a bit more like digging for buried treasure. It takes sweat, effort, and perseverance because you don’t know when your shovel will “ding!” and scrape against the top of the treasure chest (the answer to your prayer).

If prayer is like digging spiritually, then it will often be uncomfortable, even painful. You’ll get blisters on your hands, your back and shoulders will ache, the sun will continue to beat down on you. But you keep digging. You dig and you dig and you dig and you dig until you find it. You have a single-minded purpose and you know that God has promised to answer you. And if you know His unchanging nature at all, you know He’s good for it.

I have had the same prayer for three years. I tried everything: praying specifically, generally, timidly, boldly, taking breaks from praying about it, praying “if it is Thy will.” But, alas, there was no formula that granted me an immediate response. Some days, it felt like I might have better luck if I wished on a star. At least that felt promising. Most days, it felt like my prayers were coming right back to me. But I kept at it because I knew that I’d get an answer one way or the other. I got a reply on Friday: it was a flat “no.”

If you pray for the Lord to use you, to spend you, to invest your life in something that will matter for eternity, He will always, always answer it. Sometimes, His saying “no” to that means He says “yes” to something greater. Do we get to see exactly how? Not very often, at least, not right away. To be honest, I was so relieved just to have an answer, I didn’t really mind that it wasn’t what I had wanted. Of course, the three years were not wasted. My faith was deepened in ways it would not have been otherwise, and, if we are seeking the Lord above all things, that is fruit enough.

The act of prayer, speaking to the Creator of the universe, is not difficult to begin but, some days, it can be seemingly impossible to complete. Luke 11:8 talks about the man whose petition was granted “because of his impudence.” The impudent man didn’t care about the hour, or the inconvenience, or the fact that he had asked for the same thing a thousand times before: Nothing else matters except wearing heaven out with your petition. There is no space for timidity in the spiritual realm. This sacred persistence is so much richer and effective than a fanciful wishing on a shooting star. It changes the shape and posture of your heart because you reach a point where you have no words. You don’t know what else to pray. When you are at your lowest, you reach that precious place of dependency on Jesus Christ.

We rarely know what occurs in the spiritual realm (Daniel 10:11-13), but we are engaged in an actual battle and prayer is our greatest weapon. If a person’s heart is burdened, they don’t need to be like the image of Atlas: heaving, struggling to shift their weight to make their position more bearable. They can lay aside their burden for a moment and pick up a shovel, and dig and dig and dig until they hear the “ding!” and point of their shovel scrapes the top of the treasure chest. Eagerly, they open it and whether it’s a “yes” or “no,” the burden dissipates because their Father has heard them, and He always answers His children. 

What does your prayer life look like? Have you earnestly prayed for the things you want or simply wished for them?


In 2018, Payden earned her B.A. in English from Regent University and is now pursuing her M.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Oklahoma State University. A road trip aficionado, Payden can be found traveling the beautiful U.S. when her nose is not stuck in a textbook. She has a desire to help other women see the freedom and fullness that comes in living a life abandoned to Christ, and wants to spend every waking minute pursuing God's call on her life.