Ah-h-h. Perfect morning. Gentle rain, fresh coffee, quiet time.
No, fresh coffee and, especially, the serious chocolate don’t give my praying any special sway with God. Do NOT inundate me with your affront about there being no chocolate in Heaven.
Yes, Dan . . .
“So, I have some fresh, hot Community Café Special Medium-Dark Roast here.”
I see . . .
“And – AND serious chocolate. Pure Hershey’s! Now, about my request—”
Brad Riley was up earlier than you, had fresh-ground Columbian Supremo for Me – and offered Me a Cranberry Scone. You’re lame.
I don’t have the answers to all of the questions that can be raised about competing prayers. I am as tempted as anyone else to want God to see it my way. But I do think there are a few rules we can try to follow in our prayer-competitions.
- Keep praying about what matters to you. Don’t let the awareness that someone else is praying for the opposite cause intimidate you from praying about what is on your heart. God knows we are finite beings with limited perspectives on what is happening in the world. What He wants from us is that we acknowledge our dependence upon Him. This means that it pleases the Lord when we talk to him about what is on our hearts and minds, even if we show our biases in doing so.
- Focus on the underlying issues. Rather than telling God what to do, concentrate on your underlying hopes and fears. Explain to God what you are most worried about, and express your hopes about how things might turn out. Rather than requesting a specific outcome – “Give our side the victory!” – ask for things like insight, wisdom, courage, and patience, both for yourself and for the international decision-makers.
- Pray for those whom you consider to be your enemies. This mandate comes directly from Jesus: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you: (Matthew 5:44). We can’t give up on anyone to whom God gives a chance to repent and change their ways.
- Acknowledge that you might be wrong in the way you view things. I like the way the writer of Psalm 139 does this. At one point he gets quite excited about the fact that he and God are on the same side: “See how I hate those who hate you, God, see how I loathe all this godless arrogance; I hate it with pure, unadulterated hatred. Your enemies are my enemies!” (vv. 21-22). But then he seems to pause and take stock. (I imagine him saying, “Oops!” at this point.) His mood changes: “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about. See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong–then guide me on the road to eternal life.” (vv. 23-24)
Thankfully, God is infinitely above being swayed by our ‘offerings’ and way too wise to let us seriously think otherwise. I believe Mouw has made some trenchant observations about the way we approach The Maker of Hopes and Dreams.
I agree with him in another sense. My younger elder sister has been consistently telling me for decades I should hang out my website as a psychologist and counselor. I always grin and say, “I seem to find plenty of opportunities for mentoring and counseling without the added educational pressure.”
If I ever did, though, whenever I dealt with individuals finding themselves on opposing sides of a prayer issue – playing Dueling Demands – I’d tell them to table the praying, sit down together at an agreed-upon time and place, and read Psalm 139 every day for a month, with only a pad and pen.
Then they could revisit and likely revise their praying.
Of course, then they could go ahead and add some fresh joe and maybe a little snack to go with it. Chocolate. Scones.
God isn’t impressed with either. I, on the other hand, love both.
So does Brad.
© D. Dean Boone, May 2015