It occurred to me this morning that the most effective prayers go against our instincts. In 1 Kings 3:13, God said to King Solomon, “I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor . . .” To be sure, Solomon desired financial success and public respect because they were necessary to carry out the mission of being the king. His natural inclination would be to ask for what he knew he needed. I am aware that this is how I naturally operate and I suspect you do too. I think most of us would like to have
- Sufficient food
- Comfortable housing
- A surplus in our budget
- Satisfying relationships
- The opportunity to succeed at a career
- A family that loves and respects us
There is nothing on this list that is bad. There is nothing here that a loving Father would want to withhold from his children. There is, however, the possibility that these can become the consuming desires of our lives that harden our hearts, make us selfish or keep us distracted from serving others. As a dad, I understand this when it comes to my kids. When they ask me to help them grow, develop self-discipline or discover wisdom that will make them better men, I want to provide whatever else I can to make them successful. When they act like I owe them something, I immediately become stubborn to whatever it is they want.
If I can figure that out as a dad, I am confident God is way ahead of me when it comes to my life. My challenge then is to focus on the requests that produce a soft heart and discerning mindset. When my goal is to be in a trusting relationship and productive partnership with God, He gives everything else it takes to accomplish the task. Solomon’s success came because he asked for wisdom rather than for the material and leadership resources he knew he needed. He sought the thing that was more important than the things he could feel.
I am prone to panic when my bank account is low. I am inclined to isolate myself when I think others are taking advantage of my kindness. I am susceptible to selfishness when my schedule is thrown out of balance by other people’s demands. What about you? Where do your instincts naturally lead you? God notices and He knows which of these needs are necessary. I don’t ever want to play the game with God, “I will ask for this and then God will have to do that.” I do, however, want to develop the kind of trust in Him that leads me to ask for the things that naturally leads God to “give what I have not asked for.”