A good friend sang a convicting song Sunday morning in church, and the idea has been rattling around for a couple of days now. Give it a listen (and read on if you dare 🙂 ).
WARNING: The song, some sermons, conversations, e-mails, and prayer lists really caused my mind to ponder prayer tonight. This one is really for us Christians to think hard about praying. If you’re new to grieving, I think that I would recommend waiting on this one. This will be better for you in a while, but maybe not that great right away. It took a few deep breaths to hit the “publish post” button. If you hate me by the end of this, you’re not alone. I might hate me, too.
I’ve got my preaching tie on here, and I’m living up to my last name (which means ‘blunt’ in German). If you are not looking for that, I would stop scrolling. If you are, here we go!
Have you ever thought about the things that we pray for? I’ve read a few hundred lists over the years, and it’s mostly boring, boring stuff. It’s the kind of stuff that would likely happen anyway, whether we prayed or not. More importantly, it’s usually stuff that we really don’t have any business praying for. Most of us waste our time praying. With our invitations for the most amazing privilege in the universe, the invitations to come into God’s throne room like we belong and communicate with Him, we waste it almost every time.
We pray that a small illness will go away. We pray for safety when we travel. We pray that our exams go smoothly. We pray that our job applications get us the job that we want. We pray that the kids won’t be too much trouble. We pray that the car will start so we don’t have to bother with a new one. It’s just a whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter. All along, we don’t even stop to think, “What does God think about any of this ?”
Surely, God must want my convenience, because He loves me. Therefore, I should be spoiled, and live a nice convenient life where everything goes smoothly every time. It’s obvious to us, because we want it. If we’re really honest, we probably don’t care what God thinks of it.
Praying like this does something important and devastating: It ignores God while talking at Him. We tell God who He needs to be and what He needs to do. We don’t stop to ask what God wants in things because we decide that He doesn’t matter. We really don’t stop to surrender and say, “God, you know that all these things are in front of me. We both know that I want them to go smoothly, but Lord, what I really want is to become more like You, because that’s what You want. I want people to see Jesus and know Him, because that’s what you really want. If that means that nothing goes smoothly, then Lord, that’s what I want, because I want to live the life You have for me. If that means that the worst happens, then I want that.”
What if safety isn’t the best thing for us or someone else? What if an illness really is designed for me to get closer to God instead of getting healthier? What if failing leads to success in the right places? What if our convenience and comfort didn’t matter at all because God had something more important planned?
If you notice, Jesus only asked for comfort one time, and He wasn’t fully fixated on His comfort. He knew that He was about to take the wrath of every sin from every sinner at every place at every time all at once, and He knew how horrible that would be. Even while he prayed for comfort, He said “but Your will be done,” because the suffering was better for us (and Him) than the comfort.
Last year, I prayed constantly for Doria’s health. I will never deny that. It was my primary goal in our pregnancy time. As hard as this is to believe, God had something better planned, but that plan didn’t involve my convenience, but did involve a whole lot of pain. Through that, Doria’s death (and the journey it gave to Becky and I) has actually helped a slew of people already, and she’s just going to keep giving as time goes by. That used to be what I would pray for in everything, even teaching class, and now that’s what I pray for when I write this crazy stuff. I don’t want Doria’s death to be in vain. From the effects of it so far, neither does God (and He says so in places like 2 Corinthians 1:4). I’m still not sure that I can say Doria’s death was better for me. I don’t know yet if it was better for her mother. Somehow, I do know that it was better for a whole lot of other people, and that God wants us to focus past ourselves. It really isn’t all about me.
Tonight, in a nice session of prayer, it’s all on the table again. I only have 12 days left before Zoe is induced, and I’m coasting right along. That’s what I want, unless that isn’t the most important thing. Zoe belongs to God, too. I just want all of this to be His, and see the cool stuff that God does with it. And yes, I know what could happen. I love this girl like crazy, and I actually believe that this will be a good thing. If I believe these things, I kind of have to, don’t I?
If you’ve made it this far and you haven’t broken your computer screen yet, which God do you want? Do you want the imaginary one who really exists in your mind and seeks your desires, or do you want the real one who has something better in mind?
We have access to something amazing. God wants us to speak to Him. God wants to spend His time with us executing a very personal plan. It’s too important to waste. Don’t waste your time praying.