This weekend our family made a trip to Wal-mart, and what did we see upon our arrival? Petition takers. You know what I’m talking about. Those people who set up tables in front of stores holding various petitions for items they want added to our local political arena. Clipboards in hand, they approach anyone who enters. While we applaud their enthusiasm, they can occasionally be found irritating.
However we feel about these stalwart, political envoys, they accomplish things. Laws pass because of their drive. Rules change. The world responds to their enthusiastic desire for newness.
Why can’t we approach prayer in the same fashion? It’s easy to say, “I’ll pray for you”, when a friend shares a need. But how often do we ask others to pray for us?
Over the years, I’ve observed many believers on the faithful road struggle with the concept of prayer. The struggle isn’t centered on prayer for others, but rather on prayer for self. It’s as if we know something we long to see occur, but we aren’t willing to put pen to paper and write the petition. Ironically, in petition prayers for self, no one needs to agree with us and sign on except God himself. So, what’s the problem?
Talk show host Dennis Prager commented on the topic of petition prayer by stating, “I do not enjoy using God as a celestial butler.” Is that our reasoning too? Do we somehow assume that the God of the universe is lowered to subservient status simply because I make a request?
In my mind, it’s like a man driving around with a 15-year-old car and a friend asks, “Do you know a good mechanic?”
Immediately the man responds, “absolutely” and shares location information on a mechanic.
Then, the friend asks, “Do you go there?”
“No,” comes the response.
Why would anyone trust our God, if we don’t? If I pray for my friend and yet never submit myself to God and humbly place my own request before Him, how real is my faith?
I wish to be clear here. I do not believe God is some cosmic vending machine. It’s not like we put in the prayer and get out the request. If He is God, then we trust that He knows what’s right for us. He has the right and ability to respond in the positive or negative. He may even seem to not respond, and is thus saying, “wait”.
Perhaps that’s precisely what we fear. We fear, He’ll say “no” or “wait” and so we’d rather not even make a request. But in the same way, we cannot travel anywhere without first moving toward our goal, we cannot grow in our faith if we don’t first begin by submitting our request and giving over our trust.
Scripture puts it this way, “…You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2b) In yet another place it says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Let’s choose to be more like those petition takers. Unlike us, God won’t feel annoyed. After all, He’s told us to do it.
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