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Praying Precariously

What do you want?

Suppose at this moment, God asked you that
question. What would you ask for? I’ve heard this question posed
rhetorically to many a congregation and oftentimes the answers are far
too simplistic. The pastor will generally say, “Would you ask for money
and fame? Or would you ask for peace, an end to world hunger, or (like
Solomon) wisdom?” I always hate it when the pastor presumes to know
what I’d say and then makes me feel guilty for wanting something I
didn’t even ask for—suggesting that if I were really spiritual, I’d ask
for one of the other things.


I won’t do that to you. But I’ll
bet that you wouldn’t ask for money or fame. I’ll bet your desires and
your commitment to Christlikeness run deeper than that. For some of us,
it’s health and strength to continue down the hard road of ministry
that we are on. For some, it’s protection for our families, that they
wouldn’t become one of the statistics of families that find themselves
as collateral damage to full-time ministry. For others it might be
prayers for those we minister to, that they would grasp their own
belovedness and become increasingly Christlike. If you’re not in
ministry, you might ask for courage to be a better witness for Christ
in your workplace, or a more loving attitude. You might ask that God
open up more doors for you to share your faith or on how to be a better
father, daughter, boss or employee.
The answer to the question
will vary and—more often than not—the Christ follower doesn’t simply
ask for materialism. Nevertheless, perhaps we’re still asking for
secondary things. By secondary, I don’t mean bad or even self-centered,
I just mean … secondary.

There is a prayer I recently began
praying, and I have a sort of love-hate relationship with it. I love it
because I’m convinced that God honors it. He loves to honor it because
it fulfills what is perhaps His answer to the same question.
On the other hand, I hate it. I hate it because it works. I hate it
because I know that God loves to honor it and sometimes I really don’t
want Him to. Regularly, I’ll pray to God while driving and I’ll tell
Him how much I want something, and then I’ll remember this prayer. Also
regularly, I remember praying this prayer and asking God to ignore it
because I was obviously high or drunk when I prayed it. At the end of
the day, though, when I’m not so upset about whatever circumstance I
happen to find myself in, I’ll pray it again. I even tell God that I’ll
have those outbursts when I want Him not to honor the prayer and to
just ignore them because they are not what I really want.

Truth
be told, the prayer is dangerous. It takes courage to pray it. Really.
It’s like continually asking others to critique your sermons: You know
you’re going to value what they say and it will make you a better
preacher, but that doesn’t mean the process isn’t painful. There will
be times when the prayer becomes so burdensome and scary that you’ll
wish you’d never prayed it in the first place.

The fear of this
prayer is actually rooted somewhere deep inside of us, at our core. We
fear it because we’re not sure if God is going to be there to catch us.
We fear that if we pray it, He’ll push us too far and give us too much
to handle. But at the end of the day, we each need to decide whether we
actually believe that God has our best interests in mind … always. And
if we are convinced that He does, then any fear that we may have about
this prayer must be faced head-on in the interest of becoming like
Christ.

Are you ready to hear the prayer?

It’s simply: “God, before giving me the things I want, make me into the kind of person that You want me to be.”

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That’s it.

Simply
ask God to make you into who He wants you to be before giving you any
of the things you want, no matter how good and holy those desires might
be. Trust me when I say that it’s a hard prayer to pray, especially
when things are rough. And by rough, I don’t just mean you could use a
little extra cash or you have a long meeting tomorrow that you’d rather
not be in. I mean those times when you don’t see the light at the end
of the tunnel, when life’s circumstances send you into depression, when
your family seems to be falling apart and you feel like you’re failing
at life and you’re not sure if you can go another day without ending it
all.

When you’re there and even when you’re not, pray it. Bank
on the fact that God will always be there and that whatever you’re
going through, God can and will use it all for good, no matter how dark
it may seem now. If you’re convinced that becoming like Christ is the
best possible life you can live, then you must pray it.

It’s
kind of like jumping off of a high bridge into a lake or river: scary,
but when you come up out of the water, you’re glad you did it.

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