Q: What's the difference (if any) between wishing something will happen and actually praying about it? I often hope God will do something about a problem I'm facing, but is that the same as praying about it?
A: No, simply wishing things will change or hoping that God will do something about a difficult situation we're facing isn't the same as praying about it. Hoping our problems will get better is only an inner emotion; prayer is actually talking to God about them.
True prayer requires at least three things. First, it requires our helplessness. If we think we can solve all our problems on our own, then we'll conclude we don't really need God -- and we won't bother to pray. But when we understand just how helpless we are, we'll realize we need God -- and we'll pray. The Bible says, "Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth" (Psalm 124:8).
Then true prayer also requires our speech -- that is, actually talking with God. Sometimes this may be difficult; our inner hurts may be so painful that we can barely put them into words. But God knows our hearts, and He hears every prayer we make, no matter how stumbling our words. The Bible says, "The Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God" (Romans 8:27).
Finally, true prayer involves trust -- trust that God loves us and knows what is best for us, and trust also that He hears us when we pray. And we know we can trust Him because Jesus Christ died and rose again, and even now He is in heaven interceding for us. Turn your hopes and wishes into prayers -- prayers of faith and trust. And you can, because of what Jesus Christ has done for you.
Send your queries to "My Answer," c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM, or go to billygraham.org.