I often struggle with my prayer life. The biggest struggle that I have is asking God to do something, asking him to intervene in a situation, asking him to provide something. Perhaps this is because my upbringing focused a ton on the sovereignty of God to the exclusion of asking him for things. I mean, if God is sovereign and he does what he wants, when he wants, why does it matter if I ask for something? I am going to get what I am going to get. Life is going to be what life is going to be.
Mind you, I am not upset by this. I totally believe that God is loving, that he cares for me and that he has my best interests in mind. I know, and believe, that whatever happens in my life is for my good - all things work together for good to them that love God to them that are called by his name (Rom. 8:28). I don't believe God is out to get me in a negative sense, like some cosmic disciplinarian. He wants me to be holy, to experience the kind of life that he designed me to experience and to worship and love him for it and I know that takes work (rooting out my sinful patterns and behaviors). I totally get this and totally believe this.
That is what makes asking God so hard for me. I know he is going to provide what I need - he promised. I know that he will care for me - he promised.
Having said all that (sorry), there is something that happens as a relationship develops that allows one to ask. I haven't really figured this on out yet, but I know something is out there. How? Take a look at Mark 10. There are two vignettes in the life of Jesus that are recorded in this chapter.
Vignette #1 - Two of the apostles come to Jesus to ask him something:
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
If you read one chapter before this, you see what there was an argument between the disciples regarding who was the greatest. This really weird question seems to be a follow-up to that whole discussion. Notice Jesus response - "What do you want me to do for you?" There response to his question was - give us a prominent place in your kingdom. We want to be the big cheeses - next to you of course. Needless to say, Jesus did not, nor could he, grant this self centered request. Frankly, they should have known better than to make this request because Jesus had just taught them about greatness in the kingdom (the greatest = the servant of all).
Vignette #2 - The blind man on the road from Jericho
46 Then they came to
Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were
leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus),
was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Jesus asks the same question of this man - what do you want me to do for you? Bartimaeus answer to Jesus question is self centered also - I want to see; I want MY eyes opened. Jesus grants his request and heals him. Of note though is Jesus' assessment of the man - he had faith. He had the faith to believe that this Rabbi was the Messiah (indicated by the use of the title Son of David). He had the faith to believe that Jesus could heal him. Jesus didn't say that his request healed him, but that his faith did. Period.
Ponder this for a while and I think that in my next post I will look at James 1 and see what he has to say about this asking thing. Sorry about the long post.