Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hey God, Do What We Want!

Since Genesis chapter 3, it's been tough for us to give God the honor he deserves.  Actually, let me re-phrase that—It's been impossible to honor God rightly.  Sin has certainly tainted every aspect of our humanity.  God has been laying on my heart, one area, in particular, where we usually don't honor God rightly—prayer.

© Carl Durocher |

Prayer is simply communication with God.  Through Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross, we are able to pray directly to God by the Spirit of God.  In fact, it is the Spirit who speaks for us when we don't know what to say!

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. -Romans 8:26 NIV
Sometimes, though, our prayer times can become more self-focused than God focused.  Actually, I would say most of the time our prayers are self focused rather than God focused.  For instance, how many times have we prayed for God to reveal His will to us?  How many times have been consumed by begging God to meet our financial needs?  How many times have we asked God to deliver us from a situation of stress and give us his blessing?

All of those things are good and fine to ask and God cares about those things, but when they become the sole focus of our prayers, then our prayers become self-focused and God is left to do our bidding.

There's a situation like this in the Old Testament in 1 Samuel 8.  Grab your Bible and open it to 1 Samuel 8 and read that chapter.  I'll be here when you get back.

Notice the Israelites want a new form of Government.  They want what everyone else has—a King.  Israel wanted to be just like their neighbors; to experience what their neighbors experienced. (Sound familiar?)  Up until this point Israel was ruled by judges.  Many judges were corrupt, but Samuel was one true judge that God hand-picked to serve Him.  The people went directly to Samuel and demanded he anoint a King to rule them because of the corruption of other judges (Two of which happened to be Samuel's sons.) The people used the excuse of a bad government to overthrow God's plan.  The people didn't trust that God would hold His own judges accountable.  In other words, the people used this opportunity to ask God for something they wanted.  Under worldly influence, they became self-focused.

It's interesting what God says in response to Samuel bringing this petition before Him.

"Do everything they say to you," the Lord replied, "for it is me they are rejecting, not you.  They don't want me to be their king any longer.  Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods.  And now they are giving you the same treatment.  Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a  king will reign over them." -1 Samuel 8:7-9 NLT
God is willing to give the people what they want; however, He warns the people of the experience of a human King's rule.  (1 Samuel 8:10-18)  Amazingly, the people refuse God's warning with this statement: "Even so, we still want a king.  We want to be like the nations around us.  Our king will judge us and lead us into battle."  Little did they know that God's warning would prove powerfully true.  In fact, if time travel were possible, their grandchildren would probably travel back and smack sense into them.  Evil kings plagued the people of Israel and quenched the blessing of God.  There were some good kings, but most were greedy.

So why do I share this story?  Because we often ask for things that are outside of God's plan, blessing, and purpose for our lives.  They are often driven by the question, "Why me, God?"  "Why am I experiencing this financial burden?  Why am I stressed out to the point of depression?"  Whatever the "why" question is, most of the time, it drives our prayers.  Essentially we say, "Hey God!  Do what we want!"

Instead, we should pray with God at the center.  When we focus on Him and His Word and listen to His Spirit, He is responsible to lead us.  When God is leading, he will always provide.  It won't always be easy or comfortable or nice but the sense of peace he will give us through His Spirit will abound much.

When our prayers are self-focused, God might just give us what we ask and let us experience the pain of the consequence.  God won't leave us, but He will certainly use those situations to grow us!  Instead let's pray asking, "Dear God, how can I serve you?"  The question is dangerous, but a Christian can't live life without asking it daily.  The result might be as simple as saying goodbye to a habit or as radical as departing a job, a community, or best friends for the sake of the Gospel.

The experience of following God is one that few people have enjoyed.  Most people reject God and exchange his blessing for a human, self-focused curse.  God wants us to walk in His will, he wants us to tell him our needs, but it must come from a heart of humility and honor.  Not a heart clouded by false gods and idolatry.

How will you pray differently today?

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