When praying about our biggest needs and problems, it’s natural to hold onto the outcome we want. However there comes a time when we need to let go of things in prayer, and let go of what we want the outcome to be so we can experience peace no matter what. Here is a prayer process that God led me through when I had a big problem that seemed like it would never get better.
Letting Go of Outcomes Prayer
1. Look for the signs that it may be time for you to surrender the outcome of your situation to God.
When I was very worried about the long term health problems of a family member, I found myself becoming discouraged, depressed and tired out. One afternoon I decided it was time to sit down and have a two-way conversation with God about my concerns that things didn’t feel like they were going to work out the way I wanted them to.
Here are some signs that it’s time to pray the outcome into God’s hands:
You feel like time is running out and things may even be getting worse.
You wonder how long you can continue in this difficult state.
You begin having negative thoughts such as “Things are never going to work out even though I’ve been praying for so long.”
You wonder how you’re going to survive if what you want to happen doesn’t. You fantasize about leaving your job, your church, your marriage, etc. if things don’t change. You start believing that once the negative factor that you’ve pinpointed is removed that the thing that replaces it is going to be perfect and will be the answer to all of your problems.
You begin to feel spiritually dry and in need of re-filling.
You begin to question God, become angry, confused, fearful, etc.
You notice that you aren’t praying as much, reading your Bible or going to church.
2. Set aside 20 minutes to communicate with God and have pen and paper ready.
I sat down on the sofa with my journal, a pen and my Bible to express my feelings of discouragement to God. I find that writing down my prayer and whatever ideas come to my mind keeps my mind from wandering and also gives me something to look back over when I finish my prayer time.
3. Write out a prayer that expresses how you’re feeling about your problem to God.
Thank God. I started my prayer by thanking God that for his faithfulness to me and those around me over the years. I then wrote: “I bring to you my own weakness and discouragement. I want more of you and want others to be filled with your salvation, Holy Spirit and healing power.”
Offer God your weakness, your questions and feelings. Describe your feelings. I wrote, “I am confused, worried, I try to second guess the motives of others, I judge them, I often try to protect myself and stay away from conflict. Forgive my weak spirit.”
Describe the adverse effects this is having on those around you. Don’t be afraid to describe to God the strain you have been under, the way it has affected your relationship with those closest to you when they disagree with the best way to remedy the situation.
Describe the outcome you have been hoping for. Tell God’s the signs of things getting better that you have been looking for and your idea of the what the outcome should be that you have been longing to see happen.
Tell God that you don’t know how to pray about this. Express to God how inadequate you feel in praying well about this and asked for the leading and help of the Holy Spirit.
4. Stop and Listen
After you have gone through this process of expressing your thoughts and feelings in writing to God, you will begin to sense when it’s time to stop and listen to the answering thoughts that God has for you. If after meditating and listening for five minutes you don’t seem to be hearing anything, ask yourself if a Bible verse or the words to a song or a memory has come to your mind. If they have, ask God to show you their relevance to what you are praying about.
Here are some of the thoughts that came to me during my meditation along with the Bible verses that go with them:
God is able to do all of these things: God sees us. (Genesis 16:13) Knows our hearts. (Psalm 44:21) God redeems and pardons. (Exodus 6:6) God appoints and removes. (Psalm 81:6; Psalm 103:12)
We can do nothing without God’s power. (John 15:5)
Wait for God. (Isaiah 30:18)
Your times are in God’s hands. (Psalm 31:15)
God grants life. (John 10:10)
God holds all accountable for how they use their gifts. (Matthew 25:23,26,27)
God heeds the call of the helpless. (Psalm 10:17)
God resists the proud. (James 4:6)
When we follow God, we will see his glory. (John 11:40)
5. Empty yourself to God in prayer by writing responses to the following questions.
To empty yourself in prayer means to let go of what you know and also of what you fear you might not know about where your current situation is heading. In order to do this, you must make it possible for the Holy Spirit to have free access to your thoughts and fears. God already knows all of these things, but there are many things about your own self that are hidden from you and there are also things that you hide behind to prevent God from entering completely.
I used the following question to examine myself and to interact with God in prayer as I emptied myself to God.
What is my biggest fear today? Write it down quickly. I wrote in my journal in response to this question: I’m afraid that things will never get better.”
Re-read your biggest fear statement and ask God what words are crushing your hope. As soon as I wrote my statement, I realized that the word “never” was an automatic negative thought that was basing “forever” on what I was feeling and seeing today. Forever was an over-generalization and was predicting the future in a negative way that may or may not happen.
Question the word or thought that is crushing your hope and then write down a counter-statement to neutralize it. I challenged the word “never” by asking God to show me one small way that my situation had actually improved a little bit since my lowest point. I wrote that specifically, I had seen other people beginning to persevere with me in looking for a solution and having them also working toward it made me feel less alone and more encouraged. This proved that the statement that “things are never going to get any better” was false, because I had a specific way things had gotten a little better.
Write an affirmation based on the conversation you have just had between God and your biggest fear. I wrote, “I thank you Father for the progress that has been made and is being made. With your help, Oh God, I believe that progress can be made.”
Ask this bottom line question: Do you want God’s solution or yours? Don’t simply write down what you think the right answer should be. My first response was “Of course I want God’s outcome, not mine.” I decided to dig deeper by asking myself these questions: What outcome am I struggling to prevent at all costs? Which outcome am I most fearful of? I wrote down honestly that I was fearful that things weren’t going to change at all and that I was fantasizing about finding relief by bailing out on my current obligation. Of course I wouldn’t do such a thing, but it still seemed attractive to think about escaping.
Ask God to help you honestly answer this question: Can you trust God even if your feared outcomes come about? I wrote, “That’s a hard question. How can you quantify future trust?” An answering thought seemed to come, “Simple – by deciding to trust today that God is at work even when time wears on with no change or relief. God doesn’t expect you to pretend. He wants you to question and in the process of questioning and crying out to him to form a closer bond to him and a stronger prayer life. The purpose of this exercise in faith is to affirm your faith and test it through this period of longing, doubt and fear.”
6. Pray this Bible verse, asking God to help you mean it as you continue to pray it.
“If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:8 NIV) I reworded the verse this way, “Whether this situation is resolved the way I had hoped or whether it isn’t, I am the Lord’s.”
I also meditated on Jesus’ words when he said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24,25 NIV) I meditated on the fact that in allowing my ideas of how things should work out to die, I was giving God the opportunity to grow what He wanted in my life.
7. Continue to pray through your fears and hopes.
Letting go of outcomes isn’t something that we do once and for all, but is something that’s part of a long term conversation with God. However in the long run, it is the only way to experience the peace of God that passes all understanding that Jesus talked about even if things don’t get better for a long time or if they never get better.
My Personal Tips and ideas.
Learn from your past. Looking back at my past experiencing I can see that there have been times when I was being too specific and narrow minded in my desired outcome. As I prayed, I didn’t think to wonder if God had a similar but slightly different outcome in mind.
The most dramatic instance happened when I was struggling to have my first book published. I worked for 5 years and wrote 3 unpublished novels (fiction) before I finally accepted the idea that God was calling me to be a writer but maybe not specifically a fiction writer. After countless traumatic rejections, my first book was finally published – a nonfiction – a true life, how-to account – on how to thrive during life’s waiting periods! Ready, Set…Wait was based on my struggles to have my novels published and the anguish, defeat and frustration I felt that my “dream” wasn’t coming true.
This change in my direction had a very surprising twist. At the time I thought being a fiction writer was the pinnacle for writing. I had no idea that the Internet – which was in its infancy at the time – would turn the writing world upside down. What does everyone want to read online? It’s not fiction. Readers – millions and millions of them all over the world – are looking for practical advice on how to solve a specific life problem. By changing my writing direction to an outcome I wasn’t imagining, God was positioning me to become an expert in the type of writing that wasn’t a fully developed reality at the time.
Historical precedent: prayers of relinquishment. Letting go of outcomes has historically been a subject of Christian prayer throughout the ages. Jesus himself prayed such a prayer in Gethsemane when he prayed that if possible he be spared death on the cross but then added, “Yet not my will be yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) This has also been termed a prayer of relinquishment. The dictionary says relinquishment means to give up, let go of, put aside, release.
When releasing or giving things up to God, it sometimes helps to use and act of symbolism, such as pinning a request to a cross, writing it down on a paper and placing it in your Bible, etc.
Other Helpful Articles
Copyright Karen Barber 2014. All rights reserved.