We've all seen it - a kid screaming his or her head off in the grocery store. Mommy was just trying to get some shopping done when little Johnny saw something he wanted and reached out for it. Then, when mommy said no, little Johnny began to cry because he didn't get what he wanted. That's when the fun begins. EVERYONE in the store begins to stare at the "evil" mom and her poor, little child.
"Look how mean that mother is! She must have abused that poor child to make him cry that much."
Actually, the "evil mom" simply was being wise, thinking that perhaps the big can of Red Bull energy drink wasn't the wisest choice for her two-year-old.
When we grow older some of us begin to understand making wise choices. Some of us do not. For example, spending. Did you know that the average U.S. household credit card debt for 2013 was $15,270. That is the AVERAGE! When little Johnny grows up and gets a credit card he pretty much gets what he wants . . . and then pays 21% interest for the rest of his life.
When you want something do you pray for it? And how come when we pray for something we usually don't get it? Doesn't God love us? Doesn't God know we NEED this? Apparently not. Or is there something we're missing?
What kinds of things to do you pray for? I've had high school kids text me, asking me to pray for their math test because they didn't really study for it? I usually reply with, "Sure, I'll pray for you." Then I pray something like this . . .
"Father, may Little Johnny learn exactly what he needs to from this test. May wisdom come to him before it is too late and his high school career is over, in more ways than one. I pray for Johnny's priorities to change. May You, Lord, become first in his life. God, I pray for Johnny and his relationship with you. I pray your Holy Spirit would convict Johnny of his poor decision making. May he realize that he needs you above all else. And may he come to know that before it is too late. But whatever You choose God. Your will be done."
Here is my nominee for the most misused Bible verse of all time.
"24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." - Mark 11:24. That verse has launched the careers of more Prosperity Gospel preachers that I can shake an asherah pole at.
Those are red letters! That's Jesus telling us that whatever we ask for we can get if we only believe it!! Cool!!
Not so fast. First of all, who is Jesus talking to? Well, I think it's His disciples . . . for sure he's talking to Peter. So, was Jesus talking to us? Or just to His disciples? Hmm.
Here's another verse to consider.
"14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him." - 1 John 5:14-15
This God's will thing. Umm, so we can get whatever we want as long as God wants us to have it anyway? Something like that. Praying "in God's will" requires selfless prayer. That's not to say you can't pray for yourself, but you should pray for the things that God is likely to give. If we pray for a new Ferrari our prayer is likely to go unanswered. But if we pray that we can somehow find a ride for our kids to get to Sunday school . . . expect the phone to ring. Unless of course . . . you've been bad.
I am reading a book by Mark Cahill called The Watchmen. This is from his chapter on prayer.
"Living a sinful life will literally cause God to hide His face from us. Just wrestle with the ramifications of that concept for a second.
"When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!" - Isaiah 1:15
God takes how we live this life very seriously. He is not some big vending machine in the sky where we throw up a prayer; pull a lever and whatever we asked for drops from the heavens. No, He is concerned about your character. He is concerned about our thoughts and emotions, and how we treat people. He is concerned if we are representing Him well in this crazy world."
So are you praying for something, expecting to get it, while you are shoplifting things from Walmart? Are you seeking God's favor while you are cheating on your wife? Getting drunk on the weekends?
If I were you, which I am not, I would confess my sins first, seek God's forgiveness and mercy before even CONSIDERING asking Him for any favors. Remember . . . we deserve nothing. Even our good deeds are like filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6)
When we remember that, suddenly the things we pray for take on a different tone.
"Holy Father, I come before you today, lost and broken. I have sinned against you Lord and I come to you on my knees, humbly seeking your forgiveness. My eyes have strayed where they shouldn't have and I have lost myself and who you want me to be. Father, I seek your help. Refine me by whatever means you see fit. My desire is to please you with my obedience and with my life. Create in me a clean heart. Forgive me, I pray. May I always seek to do your will here on earth and one day, if you are willing, with You in heaven. Holy is your name, Lord. I thank you and praise you for who you are and all that you have done. In the matchless name of Jesus, Amen."
The Prayer by Celine Dion & Josh Groban