For most of my Christian life I’ve been taught that there are two reasons that believers do not pray. One is that have sin in our lives that we don’t want to give in confession and repentance. The other is that we don’t feel a need for God, that we are able to handle all challenges without asking Him for anything. Both seem foolish in the face of what Jesus promises:
“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. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:9–10)
Today’s devotional reading suggests deeper reasons for not asking. As Chambers says, it can be difficult because in asking, we are facing up to our moral poverty. For this reason, he must be thinking of requests related to godliness. He says that many Christians just want to hear and abide by “the simple gospel” because the preacher is not telling us to be holy. If he does, the message will produce a sense of abject poverty, and it is not nice to feel abjectly poor, so just tell what God has done and leave my response out of it.
I’m not sure about this. In my experience, preaching that focuses on the gospel gets a greater response from my impoverished heart that those sermons filled with do this and don’t do this. Maybe the key to that is first realizing the heart is impoverished.
Of course, not all requests are for godliness. Many are for physical well-being. The person who is ill and at the end of their resources has less trouble asking than someone whose doctor seems to know what he is doing and the cure is in sight.
Also, I find it easy to ask for peace on earth or anything outside my present life, including the salvation of others, unless God is going to send me into the harvest. Then that request is more difficult.
Another request we might fudge on is a request for wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)
I can ask for wisdom and often do, but Chambers challenges that. Do I really lack wisdom and feel impoverished? And if I don’t ask, is it because I already know what to do and lack willingness to do it?
Another problem with asking is that this word often means to beg. I know God’s most dramatic answers to my prayers have been responses to my begging, particularly to be rid of sin and made pure of heart, but praying that way is deeply humbling. Sometimes I don’t want to go there.
Chambers also says that people will long, desire, crave, and suffer, but fail to ask until the extreme limit. I reveal that tendency every time I say that silly line: “All I can do is pray.” Really. Prayer is all I can ever do. God never intends that I try everything I know how to do, then finally rely on Him for what I need.
This gets back to the issues of what do I pray for, and what do I really sense a need for. Sometimes I ask out of personal desire for some sort of ‘I want’ but can almost hear Him say, “No, my child.”
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)
If my heart is filled with only what I need, and I know God isn’t going to grant those needs / demands, then I keep quiet.
After considering these things, I realize there is another reason why I might not ‘ask’ anything of God. It is because I am trusting Him and totally confident and content in His supply, for me and for the others on my heart. When I don’t feel a need, then I can just praise Him, not beg for something. As Paul said . . .
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11–13)
Lack of prayer, for myself at least, isn’t a sign of guilt as I’ve usually believed. If there is no sense of need, no sense of being poor, I can rest in Him — He is taking care of everything.
Personal Note: This morning at 6:30 am, I had an appointment at our city’s large heart clinic. They put the paddles to me in a procedure called cardioversion. This was to restore my crazy A-Fib heart beat to normal. It wasn’t fun (one of them called it being ‘electrocuted’) but it worked. Of course I felt that anyone would after being zapped, but after a few hours, am getting back to normal. I’ve said I never want to experience that again, and now remember why, but my ECG is now picture perfect ___^___^___^___^___^___^___ instead of a mess more like the swear words in a cartoon. Right after they verified things were okay, my eyes filled as I thanked God for His amazing grace.