Posted 05 Jan 2011
‘True atheists do not, I presume, feel disappointed in God. They expect nothing & receive nothing. But those who commit their lives to God, no matter what, instinctively expect something in return. Are those expectations wrong?’
a quote from Philip Yancey’s book “Disappointment with God” page 41.
As someone who has committed his life to God, I was hit by this observation… And I can see that I do ‘instinctively expect something in return’, just as Philip Yancey writes. My understanding is that a Christian has access to the Lord, via prayer. It is our prayers that go before God, in heaven. That is an amazing thought: that our prayer requests come before the Lord & Creator of the universe. The question then becomes, “What shall I pray about?” Just about anything can be prayed for or about! God is very gracious in his listening to our prayers. But it is only a short step from being able to pray about anything, to beginning to pray rather more selfishly, or rather more presumptiously. I think this is the problem for me: presumptuous prayer. Philip Yancey’s question, ‘Are those expectations wrong?’ cuts to the very core of my Christian assumptions about prayer & my relationship with God. It is not the expectation that I will indeed receive an answer from God that is presumptuous. I am expecting that God will answer me in a way that I understand (that’s OK) , but more importantly, in a way that I approve of! That, of course, is the problem… therein lies the presumption. Not that God will answer me, but that he will do what I say, or ask for, in prayer! God is the king of the universe, he is the Lord of the Cosmos, not me! I can indeed bring my requests to him, but I do not have the right to bring my demands to him! The furthest I can go is bringing a request to God… and, of course, he is quite right within his “rights” to say no whenever he chooses. I have to accept that. This is what it means to ask God to be our Lord & Saviour: it is putting God in charge of us & our decision-making, & relinquishing our self-motivated desires & control over our own life direction.
The question stands: ‘Are those expectations wrong?… or, is it right to ‘instinctively expect something in return?’… is it right to expect something from God, as a result of my acceptance of Jesus Christ as my Lord & Saviour? Put another way, it is me who has accepted God’s offer of eternal life & salvation. I have done so on his terms, not on my terms. My terms could not save me, only a wholehearted giving away of myself & my terms, & a wholehearted acceptance of my real need for salvation, & a saviour, has brought me into the kingdom of God, as a Christian. But there is no implied agreement, on God’s part, that he will do my will, as a result of me accepting his very gracious offer of sin-removal & eternal life! On the contrary, God has “agreed” to be my saviour, to be Lord & King. And I have agreed to be his servant & to let him lead me in whatever direction that he chooses. Rather than presumptuous prayer, my correct attitude should be humble prayer requests, fully expecting God to answer, but to answer in a way & manner that he chooses, not in a way I choose. The most I can do is pray, but I must accept that God can & does sometimes say no.
The “bottom line” is another question: will I follow where God leads me? I have already agreed to take Jesus as my Lord, King & Saviour: that is the basis of our relationship. My obedience to his will (not my own) is actually implied in the “contract” I “signed” when I became a Christian. Having a relationship with God does not imply that I have any “right” to bring my prayer requests to him, & expect him to jump to it & grant my every prayer! Our relationship is one of adopted-son to Father. God knows me & my life, my needs, my fears & hopes, far more deeply than I probably ever will! It is a relationship that only works if I trust God: that he knows me, & that he wants the very best for me. And sometimes that means saying no to my prayer requests, because God has something better in mind for me. I can only truly accept his “no’s”, when I trust him completely.
Therefore, the question is: do I trust God with my fragile little life? Little it may be, but its the only one I’ve got! Trusting God is difficult. Letting go of choosing my own life’s direction, & of my wants is difficult. The prospect of trusting that an unseen Master will truly have my best interests at heart is a huge leap of faith. Yes, the question of trust in God & in his nature (as revealed by the Bible) is central to this life of Christianity.
I just received this text message from a friend, an encouraging Bible verse, as I have been typing this blog entry…
‘I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’
Isaiah 41:9-10 (ANIV)
That is very interesting, since I hadn’t sent him a text beforehand! As I’ve been typing this, along comes a text message that says such positive things, personally, to me! I take this to be something that God has orchestrated, to encourage me, even in the midst of my difficulties with prayer! Let’s look at it in stages, as each one is important & significant…
I have been called & chosen by God – wow!
I am instructed not to fear, for God is with me – wow!
I am instructed not to be dismayed, for God is my God – that is very personal – wow!
Then God promises to strengthen me, help me & uphold me – wow!
It is amazing what God will do or send, in order to encourage us in our faith! Thank you Lord!
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