The Sweet Christian Bride

Talking with God, Part III: Obedience

by admin on November 11, 2011 in Faith with No Comments

Some friends and I were talking about what motivates us to pray.  Brokenness and delight in God were certainly two of the motivators that came up, but my friend offered one that I wasn’t expecting.

“Sometimes I don’t want to pray at all,” she said.  “What motivates me is obedience; I just do it because I should, which I know it not a good attitude.”

It made me think.

Doing something you don’t want to do because you know you should is either self-discipline or obedience, often both.  Why would obeying God when she didn’t want to be a bad thing?  I would think it pleases God.

It’s true that empty phrases and self-aggrandizing motives in prayer are despicable to God (Matthew 6:5-8), but I’m not so sure that applying self-discipline in order to grow nearer to God is.  God knows our hearts, which means that if we grumble in prayer (Lord, I don’t want to pray for so-and-so because I’m tired and distracted and I’m not necessarily sure if You can answer it anyway, but I said I would so here’s the list of names I’m supposed to pray for…) it’s easy to think God won’t hear it or that the prayers “won’t work.”

I disagree.

Precisely because God knows our hearts, He knows when we are praying for His sake or for our own.  When it’s for His sake, even with grumbles, I think He is pleased.  He is pleased because we are throwing off what hinders by prioritizing (even weakly) what we know He is asking us to do above what we want to do; He is pleased because in praying to Him at all, we are acknowledging that He is God, no matter how much confession of doubt we offer with it (think along the lines of “I believe; help my unbelief” [Mark 9:24]), and that takes faith; and He is pleased because we are not allowing our weakness to prevent us from coming into His presence, for His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When the worship leader at my church spoke about God’s multiplying the two fish and five loaves to feed the 5,000 people, he commented that sometimes it seems like all we have to offer is two fish sticks and 5 slices of Wonder Bread.  That’s exactly the picture I got when my friend said she prayed because she should, not because she wanted to.

God, I don’t want to be here in prayer because I treasure other things over You and because I struggle to believe You really answer.  But I want to believe it, and I know that praying to You is the best shot I’ve got at really growing close to You.  So here I am.  Here is the list of names that I need to be praying for.  Here is the one sin that I can think of to confess.  Here is my one second of silence in which I will try to listen.  I’m sorry it’s not much of a prayer, but no matter how futile of an effort it is, please take my two fish sticks and 5 slices of Wonder Bread and multiply them for Your purpose.  Please don’t turn me away.  Amen.

I truly believe that God is pleased with a prayer like that.  Not because He wants our prayers or our faith to stay like that, but because we are coming before him honestly.  He knows what’s behind our triteness, our disinterest, and our disbelief, and He can speak to those issues if we invite Him to do so.  In many ways, that’s what a prayer of obedience is.  It’s a confession of sin, a plea for greater faith, and a demonstration that we acknowledge God as the One Who makes our prayers worth anything.  It’s an invitation for God to be God.

Not to say that checking our hearts, seeking to delight in the Lord, and cultivating true compassion and faith in prayer are unimportant or insignificant.  They are vital.  But in the growing process, let us not stay away from God or from prayer because we think our hearts aren’t in it enough or our faith isn’t strong enough or we are not good enough.

If you know you should pray, pray!  God wants you as you are.  He is big enough and loving enough to meet you there and to work in your areas of weakness.  And the teensy bit of discipline in prayer you offer, when it’s given with the hope (even a faint hope) of growing closer to Him, is an effective invitation for God’s strength to be made perfect in your weakness.

By Lindsay

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