When I was a boy, secular TV shows would occasionally insert a "God-moment" where a child or adult character would "pray" to God. Typically, it was a "God, if you're up there, would you do this for me, or get me out of such-and-such situation?" kind of prayer. Often times too, there would be a "I know you're probably busy, God, but if you'd kindly squeeze just a moment in to hear me, then... (selfish, spoken prayer request was shared)".
Chip Ingram, in his book, God As He Longs for You to Know Him, shares, "What you think about God shapes your whole relationship with him. In addition, what you believe God thinks about you determines how close you will grow toward him."
- 1. We tend to assume God is just like us.
- 2. We tend to reduce him to measurable and controllable terms.
- 3. We tend to overlook the obvious and significant ways that he has revealed himself to us."
Within the rebellion against God in the Garden, and ever since, was woven a desire to be like God, or be in complete control. While God desires us to be self-controlled in our actions (Titus 2), and to take each thought captive (2 Corinthians 10), we can easily and selfishly seek to control others, situations, circumstances, and more; even God! When we control or measure God in measurable terms, he becomes our Self-help-Genie or God-on-Demand.
Ingram continues (pg. 37-38), "Once we've redefined God, we proceed to reduce the Christian life to a formula. 'Let's see. If we read the Bible in the morning, if we pray a few prayers, if we give some money, if we go on a short missions trip to an exotic place, if we read some Christian self-help books, then life will be great.' We've done our part, so God is obligated to do his part, which is:
- to give us unbelievable marriages
- to make all of our kids turn out right
- to never allow us to be depressed, or even sad
- to keep any bad things from happening to us
We've got a checklist of expectations that God must meet. But ultimately what we're saying is that we worship our own happiness. In the meantime, we've reduced God from the sovereign Lord of the universe to a servant who's supposed to fulfill our personal agenda."
I believe it's within this error in thinking about God where many Christians fall into the "vending machine" mindset of prayer. That's a mindset in prayer where people will go to God only with cares and concerns, but seldom, if ever, with thanksgiving or praise for who he is or what he's done (even thanking him for permitting suffering that He may use to draw us even closer to himself). From a fleshly vantage point, who wouldn't want the God of the universe serving us instead of each of us rightly aligning our hearts and minds with His- seeking him and his will to be done in and around our lives?! He's so much better and greater than that. He will not submit to our reductions. He is not like we are.
We error greatly when we lower God to controllable terms.
3. Overlooking obvious and significant ways he has revealed himself to us.
God reveals himself to us daily in many ways. But are we looking for him? Are we watchful? Are we busy (Burdened Under Satan's Yoke)? Are we so focused on the latest busying event we're into that we miss him altogether? Do we see him in what we might consider the mundane? Do we only look for Him to do spectacular, jaw-dropping, feats; then moments later, busy ourselves with our tasks and to-do lists, forgetting how he's just revealed himself through what he's done? If we're only expecting to see him do unmistakeable, jaw-dropping things, what will he have to do to outdo the last thing he's done?
Many people in Jesus' time only looked to him for the miracles he did around them. Some placed their faith in him, but many others didn't; only seeking the next thrill they believed he could provide them.
I confess that I am dissatisfied with my relationship with You; in the ways I've slowed and limited You in growing and maturing me. Although you can never be inconvenienced, I invite you to inconvenience me, however and whenever you desire- that I may grow in patience, faith, and Christ-likeness in each day and night to come. Have your way in me. Thank you for your care, compassion, kindness, patience, and so much more that you lavish upon me daily. Help me to quickly realize these each day. I'm not deserving of anything you've given me; but I gladly and humbly accept You and all you're doing. I praise you in Jesus' name. Amen.