The essential — but often overlooked — element in every prayer …

We’re taught (or at least told) a lot about prayer. We often think the key is knowing that God can answer our prayers, and others emphasize a need to believe God will answer our requests. But there’s an overarching, all-important element to every prayer we pray that we routinely overlook. That’s the issue of the sovereignty of God, even when it comes to what we pray for.

We forget that everything is about and for the glory of God. God is sovereign over all beings and things, and that includes His sovereignty piercing into our prayers.

This reminds me of a story legendary radio commentator, Paul Harvey, once told about God’s providential care over thousands of Allied prisoners during World War II, many of whom were Christians.

    The story begins with one of America’s mighty bombers taking off from the island of Guam headed for Kokura, Japan, laden with a deadly cargo. Because clouds covered the target area, the sleek B-29 circled for nearly an hour until its fuel supply reached the danger point. The captain and his crew, frustrated because they were right over the primary target yet not able to fulfill their mission, finally decided they had better go for their secondary target. Changing course, they discovered clear skies, so the command was given: “Bombs away!” and the B-29 headed for its home base.

    Some time later, an officer received some startling information from military intelligence. Just one week before that bombing mission, the Japanese had transferred one of their largest concentrations of captured Americans to the city of Kokura. Upon reading this report, the officer exclaimed, “Thank God for that protecting cloud! If the city hadn’t been hidden from the bomber, it would have been destroyed and thousands of American boys would have died.”

God often acts “behind the scenes,” but He controls all the scenes He’s behind. He is sovereign! We might think we’re on the right mission, and what we’re pleading for is what we most need, but God sees and knows what we cannot and do not. He responds to our prayers from His position of being sovereign over all.

That’s how He responded to the prayer of Jesus made from the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He would be delivered up to be crucified for sinful humanity …

“He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me …” Matthew 26:39a.

In this passage, Jesus makes a passionate plea to the Father; He shares openly what He is feeling. But then He subjects His desires to the sovereignty of God …

“… Yet I want your will to be done, not mine,” Matthew 26:39b.

Jesus knew that God wants us to be free and open in sharing with Him our wants, our needs, our desires, our passions. Yet, He understood the need for all of those things to be brought into subjection to the sovereign reign of God. Jesus knew the best thing for all of us is what God decides from His sovereign rule over all creation.

When we forget about this vital aspect of God’s sovereignty, we might find ourselves disappointed when God doesn’t respond the way we think He should, or specifically how we want Him to. But be assured, we are far better off for God to respond to our prayers from His position of sovereignty than simply granting our passions and desires. We are much better off for it!

Do you subject your requests you make of God to the sovereignty of God?