Years ago, my mother was suffering from a physical problem. After she said the doctor had no solutions for her, I suggested that she pray about it. She replied, “No. This is a physical thing, not a spiritual thing.”
That shocked me. In my mind, God cares about every detail in our lives. He knows the number of the hairs on our heads. He cares for the sparrows. Salvation brings us into a personal relationship with Him, one that gives us access to His throne, and the blessing of calling Him Abba, Father. Jesus healed many from their ailments. Why not ask Him about our own? If He does not heal us, He could reveal His purpose for the sickness.
Chambers devotional for the day is obviously edited from a longer piece that has more clarity. However, he reminds me of what my mom said by suggesting to not ask for anything apart from seeking God; if I ask for anything from life, I’m asking in error. I’m not sure what he means other than God is my first priority and I’m not to use prayer like a genie in a bottle, even though Jesus said . . .
“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)
Chambers puts emphasis on seeking, being thirsty, knocking, being whole-hearted about wanting God, not what God might give me for this life. He wants me to know I am a beggar who pleads God for mercy. I have no right at all to ask for anything else. His words sounded like I cannot ask for food on the table, a decent job, wisdom in my relationships, healing for sickness, and certainly not for parking places and the ability to find a bargain, or be like a woman I know who prays about everything, including grace to help her choose the right outfit to wear each day.
This attitude of ‘not praying about what we can do’ is fairly common. I’ve been told that to ask God for things like that is silly. He gave us brains and we are supposed to use them, not bother Him about the trivia of life.
Chambers didn’t say that. What I think he says (and I thought about this all day) is in these words of Jesus . . .
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things (food, drink, clothes) will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
I am to put first things first. When I do that, because God cares about everything needed, He will make sure I shall not want. Living for Him means godliness and also struggles, but He does not withhold basic necessities. He wants me to trust Him for everything, and when I have His glory in mind, then asking for anything seems biblical, not always selfishly praying.
But this topic made me consider how much of my praying is selfish. I want this or that because it will benefit me in some way, or at least make me more comfortable. How often my motivation is not the glory of God but the glory of me.
I don’t know if my mother thought that asking God to help her with illness was selfish. More likely she had somehow compartmentalized her life and left God out of parts of it. If I’m honest, I’m also guilty of that. Do I rely on Him only when hungry, thirsty, feeling needy? Or do I rely on Him for all things, like my daily bread as well as forgiveness for sin and the ability to do as He asks of me?
It seems to me that this discussion is not about what I ask for, but the reasons why I’m asking. The Westminster Confession says the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Yet if my chief end is much less pious, and I just want to get through a problem, it seems to me I can still ask. I sometimes really have no clue what will glorify Him. Will it be an answer to my self-focused prayer? Or will it be the discovery that I can go on in faith without having the prayer answered?
God knows. He invites me to ask about anything and everything — and whether He says YES, NOT NOW, or NO, to simply trust Him with the answers.
Personal Note: ‘Normal’ is slower to show up than I’d hoped. Every action seemed to be in slow motion with threats of falling over. A couple times I wanted the Lord to return and take me home. Instead, I asked Him what He wanted me to do. Shortly a neighbor dropped over and told me to quit trying to do the usual, get more rest, and get my energy back. God speaks in unexpected ways!