In college, I prayed that my relationship with God would deepen. In my mind I imagined God showing himself to me in a sudden revelation that would forever bring me to a closer walk with him. This seemed like a great prayer at the time, so long as God answered the prayer on my terms.

When I graduated from college, I soon discovered that ministering as a solo pastor at a small country church can be quite lonely. My prayers contained anger at times as I struggled to understand God’s purpose in bringing me to a difficult place. I realized I had two choices: I could be bitter toward God or I could respond humbly and allow God to continue to shape my character.

I began to see that God was leading me through a place of struggle to a place of brokenness where I could fully trust him. He was answering my prayer, but not on my terms. I was learning to submit to the will of my Father.

Prayer is deeper than speaking. When I cry out to God, I must confess my lack of control and my need for his grace. Prayer is the practice of what I have come to understand in humility: I desperately need God.

Sometimes I pray asking God to do something the way I want it done. This often leads to frustration. By faith, I accept that the reality of God’s plan is far higher than my plan or purpose for my own life. To pray with real submission is the next step: opening my life to the ongoing work of his holiness in me.

When prayer becomes submission, it moves me from attempted manipulation to the place of trust. I no longer ask God to do things my way. I am still learning, but I have seen his gracious hand work when I trusted him enough to lay my agenda aside, taking hold of his plan.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). May I trust him completely, this God who loves us relentlessly! May our prayers become avenues of true submission as we seek his kingdom.

Rev. Aaron Cloud serves as assistant pastor at GracePoint Wesleyan Church in Brookings, S.D.