Recently a therapist friend of mine used a term that caught my attention; she told me that one thing that was now helping her was the practice of "pre-emptive prayers." I had never heard those two words used together like that before and I quickly asked her what she meant. She told me that usually she prays about things as they are happening to her. There is a conflict in her family and she prays about that. A friend becomes ill and she prays about that. She is having a day when she is feeling anxious and she prays about that. But, she told me, "I'm now spending more time praying "ahead" of anticipated events." As the school year was approaching she prayed that her daughter would like her teachers, make new friends, and be excited with her classes. As the Christmas season was approaching she begin praying for God to be lord of her schedule and time. For her upcoming dentist appointment, which usually makes her very anxious, she prayed that God would give her peace and that His presence would be felt during her appointment. "In other words," she said, "I now pray a pre-emptive prayer for God's blessings on situations I know are coming." What a difference, she said, this has made on her overall attitude and sense of peace.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Jonah 2:1, "Then Jonah prayed." He finally prayed after he had run from God, been tossed over board and thrown in the sea, and was swallowed by a large fish. Yes, I guess it was time for Jonah to pray. But why did he not pray before all of this trouble came. At the first request from God to go to Nineveh, the Bible tells us that Jonah ran away from the Lord. What a difference it would have made if he had only run to the Lord in prayer.
I too tend to pray as situations arise. But I'm now determined to make "pre-emptive" prayer a more essential part of my life. I'm sure it will make a difference. Perhaps it will make a difference in your life as well.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.