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God urges us to make specific requests, and yet specific requests stand the greatest chance of not being in God’s will. “God, let me win the lottery this week so I can afford to pay my insurance premium” stands less chance of being granted than “God, provide for my basic needs this week.”

I have to take issue with the SNL writers (who, I have to admit, wrote a thoughtful and relatively faith-friendly sketch) in their presumption that any request is too trivial for us to bring to God. Those of you who are parents, or grandparents, think of some of the things for which your children and grandchildren asked you when they were too young to know any better. No, you didn’t necessarily buy them a pony every time they asked for one. But the fact that they would ask for one was a sign of their love for you, and their trust in you, and the request, though ungranted, may even be a treasured memory for you.

Jesus wants to be lord of every aspect of your life – your family, your work, your leisure. God accepts petitions about the serious and the trivial. Condescending reproaches sometimes indicate that God is “too busy” running the universe to be concerned with trivial requests. That implies human-like limits on God’s capacity to act or to listen. I do not believe such limits exist.

If we treat our prayer as a conversation, as an opportunity for growth, if we try to listen for God in the quiet places, then perhaps our requests will change and evolve over time. Perhaps we’ll realize that what we ask for says something about what our priorities are, and perhaps we’ll be motivated to change those priorities. Perhaps we’ll get better at praying for the right things, and prayer will become less of a lottery ticket and more of a revelation of the ways in which God already is, and has always been, taking care of us. But the most important thing is for that conversation to get started, and sometimes the places where it starts may seem silly or trivial.

“Pray continually,” Paul advises in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. If anyone tells you you’re praying too much, or for the wrong things, it might just be Phil Hartman wearing a beard.

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John Carney is a journalist, a certified United Methodist lay speaker, a veteran of foreign and domestic short-term mission trips, and author of a self-published novel, Soapstone.