Thursday, May 19, 2016

When God Answers Gimme-Prayers

                                           Deer gazing - longingly?-  in neighbor's window

We live in a 'demanding' society where energy is often focused on self serving rights and  entitlement. - putting personal wants/needs before the good of others.
What is sad is that this attitude - perhaps more than we realize - has crept into the mind-set of Christians.  And doubly sad is that it is not only the world that has influenced this attitude but some high profile bible teachers have taught that it is God's will for us to demand the things that we want and to tell Him how we want our prayers to be answered.
But is this entirely new?  No, as we search the scriptures we see that there has always been the human tendency to tell God what we need and why and how He should fulfill our requests demands.

I have been hearing more and more often how the bible is outdated in its teachings and no longer applies in our modern times.  Is it possible that we have 'outgrown' the ancient teachings of God ? Hardly - I believe they were never more needed or relevant.

The scripture has been given us for our protection and knowing God's will. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, ~ II Tim. 3:16  And according to Rom. 15:4, the old testament stories are not just recorded history but were specifically chosen because they picture for us the lessons we need to learn.
The question I want to look at is not - "Should we pray God-Gimme prayers?" but rather, "Do we want God to answer God-Gimme prayers?"

The first bible example we have of a 'gimme-prayer' is in the story of Lot.  It is easy to miss the implications of this detail in light of  the story's more distracting elements.
God told Lot to flee for safety to the mountains.  Note God's words .."Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed."~ Gen. 19:17.   But look at Lot's response... "I can't escape to the mountains because some evil might overtake me and I die..  Let me go to Zoar and I will live!"~vs.20
God answers Lot's gimme-prayer, but what do we see unfold?   Though Lot's demand was granted, he did not experience what he sought - safety. Reaching the city, Zoar, he finds he is too afraid to dwell there.  God had told him where he would be safe ...  Lot's 'gimme' answer filled him with fear.

Lesson number 1 about 'gimme-prayers' -- If God grants them we may end up with the very thing we feared most , the very thing God's way would have spared us from - Fear, not peace, is woven into the results of granted 'gimme-prayers'.
We have another story from the life of Hezekiah.  Hezekiah, as the king of Israel, had been a good king, ruling in righteousness and experiencing the favor, protection and even miraculous intervention of God on his behalf. But then came the day he became very ill and God sent the prophet Amos to him with the message... "Thus says the Lord, set your house in order, for you shall die and not live."~II Kings 20:1.   This message did not find a 'thy will be done' response in Hezekiah's heart.  Hezekiah's bitter response was,"All my life I have tried to please and serve you, and this is the thanks I get?"  
God answers the 'gimme-prayer' of Hezekiah,  and grants him fifteen more years.
One probable reason for Hezekiah's bitter response is that he had no son at the time God said it was his time to die. We know how important it was for kings to have sons so that they would have an heir to the throne.
What played out as the result of God granting Hezekiah his 'gimme-prayer' ?
Two things happened in these fifteen years that changed history.
The first was that Hezekiah trusted the enemy and showed them all the treasures in his house. This 'befriending' of the enemy led to Hezekiah's descendants taken captive into Babylon and made eunuchs.
The second thing was that the son born to Hezekiah in those 'extra'  fifteen years was named Manasseh, who became one of the most wicked kings of Israel.  In fact, because of Manasseh the people of Israel became so wicked that God turned his back on them, saying, "So I will forsake the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies and they shall become victims of plunder to all their enemies." ~II Kings 21:14.

Lesson number 2 about 'gimme-prayers'  --  Even though, our way may seem to be far better than God's way, the result of our getting our way may have have far reaching effects that we could never have fore-seen or guessed.  Had we known what God knew in His sovereign knowledge we would never have demanded our gimme-prayer request.
Jesus in teaching us about 'gimme-prayers' told the parable of the prodigal son - a story we are all very familiar with.
It is the story of a younger son, who lived in the shadow of an older brother.  A brother who could do no wrong, who stood to inherit the family farm, who lorded his superiority over his younger brother  and shamed him in his youthful pursuits of enjoying life.
 It rankled the  boy's soul, that he should work for his older brother knowing it would be the older brother who would be the one to gain from his labor.  It was hardly fair.  And did his father understand how he felt?  No, it was always the older brother's example that was held up to him.
Until the night he resolved to take things into this own hands, and decide the course of his own life. He would demand what was coming to him - his inheritance.  Why shouldn't he have it ?   His brother could take care of the things were would be his one day anyway!
And so he demanded his father give him what was rightfully his - what difference if he received it now rather than after his father's death.  His father quietly agreed to the gimme-demands of his son and made the sacrifice to liquidate enough of his resources to give him his inheritance portion.
We know the story.   With money in hand to buy him happiness, he hurried from home to indulge his every want and desire.   Who said money couldn't buy happiness?   It did !!  -- but only for a time; there was not enough to sustain his chosen life style indefinitely.
Left destitute and alone, wallowing in misery and filth -  the son came to his senses, recognizing at last where the real foundation of health and joy was in the home of his father,  where he lived under his  father's provision and protecting love.
Did his father receive his now penny-less son back?   Yes, oh yes !  He had been watching and waiting for him to come home - quick to forgive him and embrace him in his waiting arms.

Lesson number 3 about 'gimme-prayers' - Oh yes .. the world's glittering treasures entice and invite and promise us everything we could desire and more.  We feel that 'if only' this or that was given to us, our life would be complete and we would be happy.   And yet, most often, the things we believe will guarantee our happiness are the very things that rob us of it and leave us wretched and empty and poor.  Along with Jesus' parable to teach us this truth, we can also look at the example of the Israelites who demanded meat, and lost their lives in the resulting plague.  We can also look at the example of when they demanded a king, and brought upon themselves taxes,  conscription of their sons into the army, even seeing their children offered in fire sacrifices to strange gods.  Wicked kings turned them away from the God that loved them.

Conclusion  --   Do I ask God for what I think I want, for what I believe is needful in the lives of my loved ones?  Yes, God invites us to come and share our hearts, thoughts and desires with Him, but I never leave off the 'fine print'  - "Lord, I give you veto power over my desires that are not Your desires.  I pray that you do, not according to my will, but Yours ... because I know that Your will is perfect, and your ways righteous and just and loving." 

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