In January of this year my brother and sister in law did something pretty radical. My brother, a worship pastor at a church, felt his season of leading worship at his church had come to an end and that God was asking him to resign from his job. With no knowledge of what he’d do next, not even a prospect of another job, he stepped down from his position and stepped out in faith. Over the next eight months he, my sister-in-law and our whole family united in prayer that God would give him a job and all would be well. Well, it’s August now and there is still no job to be found.
In times like these, I find that my prayers are a bit, how shall I put it, lopsided. I tend to rattle off prayers like “God, please give Scott a job,” or, “God, can you give them an answer about ____ today.” I say my amens and then sit around twiddling my thumbs waiting for God to show up and answer. With each passing day, and seemingly no answer, my prayers go up a notch. Now it’s more like, “C’mon God, I know you’re there, just give him a job already.” “Seriously, God, they need the income, can you give him some kind of work?” I start to beg and plead thinking to myself that if I just pray harder or pray the right way, God will finally hear me and do what I ask. This brings me to our third lie for the month:
If you pray hard enough, God will give you what you want.
A lot of churches these days toss out what I like to call the “Name and claim” prayer philosophy. Name what you want, claim it to God that you want it, and he will give it to you. Kelly recently wrote a post addressing the verse in Matthew that says “ask and it will be given to you.” Her insight is beautiful, and not where I am heading today. Instead, I want to look at another passage in the book of Luke.
Luke 18:1-7 • “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him, asking, ‘Give me justice in this case against my adversary.’ For a while he refused but finally said to himself, I don’t fear God or respect people, but I will give this widow justice because she keeps bothering me. Otherwise, there will be no end to her coming here and embarrassing me.”
When interpreting this passage, people tend to believe that it means if you pester God long enough, he’ll cave and do what you’re asking. We believe that somehow it is up to us to convince God of what we need and what is best for us. But look at what Matthew says:
“When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask.” (Matthew 6:7-8)
So, God knows what we need before we ask, even if what we are asking for isn’t what we need. If that’s the case, the purpose of prayer should not be a chance to check off all the things you want God to give/do for you but something entirely different. Oswald Chambers said, “Our ordinary views of prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer as a means for getting something for ourselves; the Bible’s idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.”
When talking to my brother now after eight months of waiting for God to “answer” his prayer, I find his feelings toward the situation are completely different. Instead of telling me he’s waiting around for God to give him a job, he told me that he realized it was never about the job in the first place. He said that he realized that what God wanted was to change him. To make him more like Christ. And the way he was able to come to that place was by spending time in prayer with God & getting to know His heart for my brother.
I’m not saying don’t ask God for things, but what I am saying is that we should stop using God like an ATM for our life- withdrawing wants and desires, but never taking the time to make any deposits. What if we stopped badgering God to give us what we wanted, and instead consumed ourselves with getting to know him? I wonder how our prayers might change, and even more so, our life.
May I challenge you and myself to get to know God more today. To take our time in prayer not as an opportunity to rattle off all the things we want from Him, but to express our love and gratitude-to be still and hear what He might want to say back to us. Who knows, in the end we may not get what we want, but rather what we need.