#1 Thinking of Prayer as a Way to Manipulate God
We’ve all done it. Prayed a certain prayer and then when things don’t turn out the way we want them to, we let God have the full fury of our anger.
I’ve seen some deeply spiritual people fall into this trap (just claim it in Jesus’ name and it will happen!!), some well meaning people, and just about every other type of person you can think of fall victim to this one. At some point, most of us spend time praying for a dying relative or a sick child or friend. While illness and death are not simple to deal with, I’m honestly shocked at how many times people make the assumption that God somehow let us down because our prayers weren’t answered our way.
I won’t pretend for a second to trace out cause and effect — why some people recover and others don’t. Do I believe that God can and does intervene and heal people? Absolutely. Would I suggest that it’s always a direct intervention? Not sure. Would I say that God directly willed the death of someone who didn’t recover even though they were prayed for? Stated that way, and you can begin to see the problem with our thinking.
So what fixes this? Respect. So many biblical writers and figures had a very healthy respect for God. They did not pretend to be able to figure God’s every move out. When they prayed, there was a deference to the wisdom of God. When they prayed, their prayers were honest, gut-wrenching, real dialogues that laid out the whole array of human emotions before God. (Read the Psalms for example.) And at the end of it all, many were simply able to worship God in the face of their loss and worship God in the face of a healing. They just worshipped God because they knew Him to be good.
But in our culture, God is good when He does what we say. God is bad when He doesn’t listen to us. Ouch. I think we all long for a God who is far deeper than that. Thank God He is.
When have you been disappointed by the way God handled a prayer you deeply prayed? How have you resolved that over the years, or have you?