About three thousand years ago, a wise man named Agur said, “There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four which I do not understand.”
Really? I used to think. Only four? Of course, he did pick four good ones.1
I recently considered some of the ways I benefit from prayer. I was especially reflecting on various aspects of stability and clarity—inner poise and grace—that prayer adds to my life. In keeping with Agur’s group of four, here are my top four gains.
Peace. Sometimes I face circumstances over which I have no control. There is nothing I can do tangibly to fix the problem, but I desperately want to do something. When I have committed the situation to prayer, I have confidence that I have taken the most effective action I could. This helps me to focus not on my inabilities or on the complexities of the difficult situation, but on God, who is able to do above and beyond what I could ask or think.2 Knowing that I have placed a matter in His loving and capable hands brings peace.
Freedom. No one knows me better than God. There is nothing about my thoughts or actions or motives that is hidden from Him. He knows the best of me and the worst of me, and He still showers His love on me in abundance. Especially when I am hurting, it’s both liberating and healing to be able to blurt it all out to God—the good, the bad, the ugly, the questions, the pain, the need for forgiveness, the desire to make things right. I don’t have to restrain my emotions or censor myself when I am talking to Him. He sees my heart and has promised to guide me as I look to Him.
Perspective. Prayer helps me to think about my problems against the backdrop of God’s power. I am “under the shadow of the Almighty.”3 I am asking “the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth”4 for assistance. His power and understanding are infinite; my problems and needs are minuscule in the face of His greatness. Prayer also causes me to reflect on the needs of others who face hardships far greater than mine, which helps me to realign my position toward God and others.
Completeness. There’s a kind of holistic sense of well-being that comes from responding to a problem with both practical and spiritual action. It can be a rewarding experience to support someone else in prayer.