Has God ever responded to a prayer with complete silence? Or, “Get it yourself”?
Most days I see (or receive) dozens of prayer requests. Each one is considered, and I offer prayer for everyone who asks me personally. I’ll admit, I don’t always pray for God to answer the specific request with a “Yes.” Asking God for mercy, comfort, grace, discernment, or provision works whether or not I know the particulars of the circumstances.
There is a striking commonality to the majority of today’s prayer requests, which prompted this post. Most ask for help convincing God to do something the person isn’t willing to do for themselves.
“Would you pray for God to make me stop wasting my time?”
“Please pray that God will make me stick to my diet.”
“Please ask God to make me more patient.”
“Will you pray for God to give me ________?”
“Would you pray that God will convince my husband to ________?”
God Helps the Unable – Not the Unwilling
The similarity in each of the prayers is for God to do something the person doesn’t want to do herself. I don’t know about you, but God has yet to make me do anything. He’s cagey and knows precisely how to get my attention – eventually. Jesus never forced anyone to do anything, and obedience to His commandments is how we show our love. Obedience is always optional. If not, it would be coercion.
Imagine a robust teenage boy playing video games in the family living room. He yells for Mom to please get him something to drink. He is thirsty. He is in need, but presently occupied. Mom, will you please satisfy my need and desire?
How many moms out there would stop what they’re doing and get their poor son a drink? After all, the child is thirsty!
The son is perfectly capable of solving his problem, but isn’t motivated enough to stop what he’s doing. He’s more interested in the video game than water or soda. If it’s not that important to him, why should Mom move his request to the top of her to-do list?
When and if getting a drink becomes important enough, he’ll get his caboose off the sofa and pitter-patter to the kitchen on his own two feet. Without knowing it, Mom’s response teaches her son a tiny lesson about prayer.
Why ask God for what we have the power to do ourselves? If what you desire isn’t important enough to move your own feet, why bother God? He loves you more than your mother or father. He loves you enough to tell you to “Get it yourself.”
Discerning between WANT and NEED
There is tremendous confusion about the terms want and need. “I want” and “I need” are two completely different animals.
I admit, I was a little late to the party when it comes to defining simple terms for kids. The first time I had to explain the difference involved making a shopping list for a teen-age girl preparing for her senior year in high school. She had only lived with us a short time, so I was in uncharted waters.
“I need blue jeans.”
The pile of jeans in her closet made me curious. I wonder why she needs jeans? So, I asked.
“How many pairs of jeans do you already have?”
“Twenty-seven. But I can’t wear them.”
“Twenty-seven!? How many fit?”
“All of them, but I can’t wear them.”
“If they fit, why can’t you wear them?”
Holding up a pile of pretty nice jeans in an assortment of colors, she said, “Look at the hems! They’re totally frayed.”
Most hems were uniformly frayed. It was kinda interesting, so I asked, “How did they get that way”
“I ripped them out.”
“Because everybody wore their jeans that way.”
“Let me see if I understand you. You have twenty-seven pairs of jeans that fit, but you don’t like the style you wore last year.”
“Right, so I need new jeans.”
“There’s a difference between need and want. You have plenty of jeans you can wear, you just don’t like the frayed hems anymore. What’s wrong with the rest?”
“They don’t sit right at the waist. I want them to fit like yours.”
Okay that was kinda cool. But, I didn’t take the bait. “So they fit fine, you just want a different style, right?”
“Can you afford to buy new jeans?”
“No. But I need them.”
“Needing jeans means you don’t have jeans to wear. Wanting different jeans in not the same thing. If you needed jeans I would buy you jeans. But you don’t need them. You want them, which is completely understandable. How about a part-time job? That way you can buy whatever you want.”
She got a part-time job. Oddly enough, once she had a little money to spend she decided not to WASTE it on something she didn’t need. On the list of wants, jeans just didn’t make it to the top. She was a great kid, and twenty years later is a wonderful woman, wife, and mother.
God probably won’t send an angel to get you a soda
Sometimes it’s hard knowing if our prayer seeks provision for a need or gratification for a want. When in doubt, I pray for discernment. That’s always safe, and I learn more about the mind of God. When we ask anything in His will, Jesus assures us our request will be granted.
God never asks us to do anything without making a way – He makes us ABLE. God always moves with more strength in our need than in our want.
Somehow, I can’t see God dispatching an angel to the fridge to get us a cool drink of water if we’re perfectly capable of getting it ourselves. Maybe the idea is for us to offer a cup to someone who doesn’t have water at all?
If buying bluejeans isn’t important enough for me to part with my own cash, why ask God to use His awesome power to fill my closet? Jesus specifically tells us not to worry about what we wear. Needing something to wear is one thing, being overly concerned about the design is entirely another.
If I’d rather play games, garden, read, or visit with friends than maximize my potential or do His will – how does it make sense to ask God to make me do it? God knows every trick the human heart can devise. You can’t fool Him.
God thinks far more highly of His children than being a hand-servant or sugar-daddy. The central theme of relationship with Jesus Christ is distinguishing between what we can do for ourselves and what we cannot. Learning to tell the difference between a need and a want is critical to eternity.
Have you ever confused a want with a need? How did you resolve the issue?