How easy is it to go to God in prayer with all of our plans already laid out? We think we know what is best for us, so we ask God for that specific person, plan, or thing. We ask for everything to work out exactly the way we want it. I have definitely lost track of the number of times I have asked for something I thought was good, and God has said no and given me something so much better.
Pastor Chad asked, “What is our motivation?” on Sunday. What is driving us to prayer? Are we hoping God will just listen to us and give us what we want, or are we going to Him asking Him to give us what He wants? To change our hearts to desire whatever it is that He wants for us? Believe me, that is a difficult prayer to truly and deeply mean. It might be easy to say, but changing our minds and hearts is something very different. Perelandra by C.S. Lewis was a life-changing book for me when I read it in 2006. I always had said I wanted whatever God chose for me, but I have to admit that when it was not what I asked for, I did not usually appreciate it. It wasn’t what I really wanted. The quote that really opened my eyes to my attitude of wanting my own way instead of God’s was this:
“You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other.”
I had my own idea of what I wanted and had a multitude of great reasons why it was the best idea. But it wasn’t what God wanted for me. And I have to say Him telling me no, especially in 2006, was the very best thing for me. God knew exactly what I actually needed. We can hold onto what we want, wishing we had gotten that, ignoring the beauty of the thing we have been given, or we can be thankful that God has given us what we need and enjoy the incredible sweetness of it.
What do we need to change in our attitude toward our communication with God? We need to begin our prayers acknowledging His omniscience and power, but also that He is our loving Father. He knows and wants what is best for us. He loves us more than we could possibly comprehend. Then, if we end our prayers with “Not my will but Yours be done,” are we truly prepared to accept His will? If we pray for some trial to be taken from us, are we prepared, as Jesus was, to go through it anyway? Most of the time we have no clue how God can work things for His glory. Sometimes it’s not even that it’s good for us. Sometimes we have to look outside ourselves and realize our trials may be helping someone else in a huge way, and it may not make any sense to us this side of heaven. Sometimes we may need to have multiple things go wrong in the morning that make us late to keep us from an accident that might have happened if we’d been on time. The sacrifice Jesus made was not for His own benefit, but to reconcile people to God. The end result was the only positive part of it all. While none of us are enjoying this pandemic, maybe it is exactly what our world needs to wake us up to how God wants to move among us. Perhaps we should be praying, “Lord, please take this trial from me. But if you want me to go through it, please show me what you want me to be learning or how I can help others in the midst of it.”