Thursday, August 11, 2011

Being Ignorant to our Ignorance

Today I want to build on something I mentioned yesterday regarding prayer.  We all make the mistake of being presumptive in our prayers.  We tell God what we want and how we want it or we give Him a list of things to choose from when we are really feeling submissive, but we never just surrender everything to God.  Sadly, we do not know our own ignorance and cheat ourselves of the best answer to our concerns.  The Bible makes an amazing promise that we do not take advantage of nearly enough, and that is to our own disadvantage.  
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.   Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit [is], because He makes intercession for the saints according to [the will of] God.  Romans 8:26-27 NKJV
Note that this does not say "if" or "when" we do not know how to pray or what to pray for, it simply says that we do not know.  My contention is that we really never know exactly what to pray for except for those times when God gives us what to pray for, but even then our prayer is a response to the Spirit's work.  It is a terrible shame that we try to limit God to our wisdom, but that is what we do when we go to Him presumptively.  We give Him a list of options or a specific plan and ask Him to make it so.  We act as though God responds to our will, when prayer is really about submitting ourselves to His will.  There are other times when we do not even bother to request something in prayer, but almost demand He act in a certain way.  Today I want to talk about those times.

First there are those "list" prayers.  We have a certain decision to make and we give God our list of choices.  For example, let us saying you are planning a vacation.  We narrow it down to a few choices and ask God for His will in choosing which place to go to.  We never bothered to ask God whether or not we should even go on vacation and then we limit His will to our few selections.  Vacation is just one example, but we do that in so many areas of our lives.  We ask Him when we should do something without ever asking Him if we should do that thing.  If we took the time to ask God if we should go on vacation, He may have said not to because He knew of some other issue in your life that would coincide with when you were planning to go and therefor ruining your trip.  If we ask God when, He may have given us a completely different date to work around that circumstance in your life.  What happens if we ask God where and give him a couple of choices like (for example) the Bahamas or California, but He knows that there will be a hurricane in the Bahamas that week and California will be in the midst of day after day of rainy weather during that time.  In other words, we gave Him two bad choices.  If we just asked God where, He may have led us to some completely different place that happened to have perfect weather that week, some special discount rate saving us a lot of money, and some event happening that that turns out to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing.  The point I am making is we have God's wisdom to tap into, why would we limit Him to our own and expect Him to answer on those terms?

There there are those "bless this plan" prayers where we come up with a whole plan and ask God to bless it.  This is even worse than the "list" prayers because we leave no place for God's wisdom in our plans.  Why would we plan anything of our own wisdom when God is ready and waiting to plan things for us?  We plan ministries, outreaches, family trips, work projects, and just about anything else and only bring God in at the end to ask Him to bless what we came up with.  When things do not work out the way we had hoped, we get discouraged and ask God why He allowed things to fail.  The thing is that God did not allow things to fail, but it is us who planned a failure.  Why would God bless our own plans when by the very fact that we have our own plans means we are not seeking after His plan?  The blessing is not in God making whatever feeble thing we come up with work out the way we hope, but for us to ask God for His plan, which is a guaranteed success.  If you want God to bless your plans, then make your plans His plans. 

The worst kind of presumptive prayer is the ones where we "claim" things from God.  Don't get me wrong, all of the examples are some level of "claiming" things from God, but this one has no pretense of submission at all.  It is an out and out demand of God.  Personally, I hate when someone prays by "claiming" something from God.  Prayer is about submission and claiming is anything but submission.  I have heard this done many times in terms of healings and blessings.  What arrogance we have to demand anything of God.  Yes, God makes us promises and yes we can take that God will fulfill those promises, but we are rather ignorant when we think we know how He has to answer those promises.  Just as it is disrespectful for a child to make demands of his parents, so it is for us to make demands on God. 

The overriding theme of what I wrote about today is the battle of our will vs. our submission to God.  We do not ask God if we should go on vacation because we are scared He will say no.  We do not ask Him where He wants us to go because we are afraid He will tell us to go somewhere we do not think we want to go.  And so what we do is narrow our list of choices to our wants and then bring God into the picture.  In other words, we are not seeking God's will at all, but trying to box God into our will and expect Him to go along.  When we make plans and ask God to bless them, we are once again, not interested in God's will at all unless that will is for our plans to work out.  We do not ask God for plans because we are scared that He will say that there should be no plans at all or that we will not like the plans He comes up up.  When we claim something from God, we are merely making demands of God to do our bidding.  In all of these cases, we are merely trying to manipulate God into submitting to our will.  Do we honestly think we are fooling God?  Do we honestly think that we can manipulate God into our own will by pretending to seek His? 

What we need to do is give up the idea that we know what to pray.  In all things, we should pray the will of God and pray that He helps us make our will His will. We see things from such a limited perspective and know so little whereas God sees everything for all time and knows all things. Not only do we not know what is best in any given situation, but we do not even know what the choices should be.  In fact, we do not even know what all the choices are.  It is time we admit that, it is time we just start seeing prayer for what it is. Prayer is seeking after God's will.  Prayer is not just talking but also hearing from God.  Prayer is an act of submission. For some reason, we seem to equate prayer with sitting on Santa's lap and merely rattle off a list of what things we think we need prayer for and what those answers should be.  Let us repent of our arrogance of trying to manipulate God to our will by trying to limit His answers to our prayer to what we want them to be.  We need to stop asking God to give us the lives that we think we want and just give our lives to God trusting Him to do with us what He wants.  What He gives us may be different then what we thought we wanted, but what we will find is a life we never could have imagined.  God promises us to give us the desires of our heart, not the desires of our flesh.  Get the flesh out of the way and see just how fulfilling a filled heart can be. 
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

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