How Do You Pray?

       I was in Dallas, sitting next to Cyndi in the Love Field food court, waiting for our connecting flight home from skiing with family in Brighton, Utah, just after we gave our granddaughters back to their mother, reading from Joshua 18, when Joshua was dividing up the land among the tribes of Israel after they had conquered the area.

       Joshua 18:1-3 “The country was brought under their control, but here were still seven Israelite tribes who had not yet received their inheritance. So Joshua said, “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?”

       God had given them land, but seven of the twelve tribes had failed to take possession of theirs. Joshua was losing patience.

       Earlier that week, before our trip, I read from Joshua 1, when Moses died and God turned leadership over to Joshua. I’m always struck by the suddenness of Joshua’s promotion, “Moses my servant is dead. Now then you,” and I’ve written about how we should be prepared when our turn comes.

       But when I read it this time I noticed something else, a different sentence a few words later, “I will give you every place where you set your feet,” implying the size of their blessing depended on how far they walked, or whether they kept pushing out the boundaries.

       I wondered if that was my story, too. Was I failing to ask God for what he has been wanting to give me? I often go round-and-round wondering how to pray for the books I’ve written. Do I humbly ask God to put them in front of the few people who need them and be content with that, or do I pray that they sell mightily around the world? I believe I write the words God gives me, and I believe that people benefit from reading, but it scares me to pray for big book sales. It makes me feel selfish and egotistical. Am I praying for my sake, or for God’s sake?

       One of my favorite authors and influences seems to tell me I should pray for inspiration and then let God decide the results. Another says I should pray boldly for God-sized miracles, so huge everyone will know that success can’t be because of me and my ability but must be the hand of God.

       In Joshua 1, God said he would give the people any place where they set their feet; the size of their nation depended on how far they walked. To stop too soon would be to shortchange themselves.

       Is God wondering when I will start walking out my edges, or taking possession of what he had already given? Is he waiting for me to ask? Is he wanting me to pray for bigger things?


       In Iron Men, we have been reading A Praying Life, by Paul E. Miller, and recently we discussed the two biggest errors most often made when praying: either we ask selfishly, or we don’t ask at all.

       I’d fallen exactly into this trap. I was so afraid of praying selfishly, of slipping into a name-it-claim-it prosperity message, I didn’t ask at all. How could that possibly be the right answer?

       It’s time for me to grow up and follow God’s directive to Joshua, “every place you set your feet,” and assume God won’t bless unless I walk it out, unless I pray it out.

       What would that look like? I don’t know. My vision gets blurry quickly. I don’t see myself writing prize-winning or best-selling books. I can’t see that far over the horizon yet. I also don’t expect writing to be my sole source income. In fact, I don’t do my best work if writing is all I’m doing. I need the interchange of ideas and personal contacts that come when I am doing engineering work. Cyndi once told me, “Your writing gets small when you spend all  your time alone, when you aren’t working for someone else.”

       I used to pray that God would sell 1,000 books every month, and that as a result I would be invited around the county to speak. I don’t know if 1,000 books a month is outrageous, but in my mind,  it is a god-sized dream that only God can accomplish. I don’t know if lots of speaking engagements is best for me or my family or current ministry commitments, but I am open to the possibility.

       I think that should be my prayer going forward. What do you think? How do you pray?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32