(Borrowed from sacredsandwich.com)
Yeah, I’m guilty.
I’m guilty of JUST praying to God, JUST asking him to JUST give me the insight to do my homework, to JUST give me a little more of his Spirit, to JUST help me withstand this one temptation, to JUST give me a safe trip home. Many times in church, I hear people ask God if he will JUST show up in worship. “JUST be here with us today,” we ask, as though we are afraid that asking God to be present in our church service or in our daily lives may be JUST too much to ask.
Many of us are so tentative as we approach God in prayer, and we don’t even realize it. If you are like me and you have fallen in the trap of JUST praying, then I am afraid that we have both been putting limits on our own spiritual life. Our vocabulary is all wrong. I’m not sure whether we sound more like a nervous teenager about to ask a girl out for the first time (“I was just really hoping you’d go to a movie with me”), a nervous employee asking an irritated boss for a raise (“Just a couple more hundred, that’s all I ask”), or the guy stuck on the life raft asking God to save him (“God, if you will just send a boat, I promise I’ll go to church the rest of my life”).
Jesus encouraged us over and over again to come to God with our requests, to ask, to seek, to knock and keep knocking. He didn’t say this because if we asked enough times, God would finally get annoyed and give in. No, he said this because God is our Father who loves us and wants to hear from us.
Like any good parent, he wants to give us the things that are good for us. Sometimes that means he might say no to our requests, but it sure doesn’t means he will respond to our requests in anger. It sure doesn’t mean he will hurt us. “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks you for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?” (Matthew 7:9-11)
I am blessed to have two parents who I could approach confidently with my requests because I knew that, whatever the answer, they would respond in love. I’ve never stood before them and cringed and asked if they would just give me food or just come to my basketball game. Of course not! I knew they loved me, and as such I expected them to do things that would keep me healthy and show me love. Do we doubt at all that God wants us to be growing in him, to have spiritual or physical health, to know we are loved?
Of course not everyone is stuck in this mode of unconfident prayer. But for those of us that have been stuck in the trap of JUST praying to God, it is a bad habit that we need to break. I have been trying to consciously keep the word “just” out of my prayers. I want to approach God with confidence and high expectations, and I want the vocabulary of my prayers to reflect my confidence. I no longer just want him to do just a little bit for me to just help me get by.
No one prayed with confidence better than Paul. Check out this prayer he prayed in Ephesians 3:16-20,
“I pray that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Now that is a confident prayer! That is how I want to pray! I want to know the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ. I want to know all the fullness of God in a way that surpasses understanding. I love how Paul is asking for the stars. He asks for it all; he asks that we might be so overflowing with God’s love that we won’t be able to take it. He asks that we would be changed beyond recognition because Christ isn’t just showing up in our lives every once in a while; he is showing up and moving in and taking charge!
And the best part is, I don’t think these are the kinds of things to which God is going to say “No.”
Paul says that God can do far more than we can ever ask or think, so why do we think we need to limit God in our prayers? With apologies to Aretha Franklin, I don’t want “just a little bit” from God. No, I want everything he has to give me. I’m putting the brakes on praying that God will just do a little, and I’m learning to pray that he can do more in me and around me than I can even imagine. I’m asking that he do more than I can even dream to ask.
In John 21, the disciples spent all night on a boat without catching even one fish. As morning came, Jesus called to them from the shore, “Children, you don’t have any fish, do you?”
“Not one,” they replied.
Jesus shouted back, “Try casting on the other side of the boat.”
They cast the net one more time, and this time it was so full of fish that they could not haul it in. One of the disciples shouted, “It is the Lord!” After all, who else could do something so incredible?
When Jesus saw that his children, his disciples, needed a fish, he didn’t give them a snake. He gave them more fish than they could ask or think. This is the God to whom we pray, so don’t JUST pray. Pray with great expectations.