"We are not the initiators of our experience of God, we are the responders."It's a Wednesday morning at our women's study on prayer. We're looking at stories of how God had answered specific people's prayers in the past, when it hits me--
--Boom. the Lord appeared to Solomon. I just have to stop right there. Don't we go to God because there's something we already want or feel we need? I thought that's what prayer was--us approaching God, asking for the things we think we need. Is this telling me that God comes to us and asks us what we want?? Could this really be the case? If so, why?
1 Kings 3:5 "At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, 'Ask what I shall give you.'"
Cause that's the kind of God we serve. Didn't God come to Noah when he was going to flood the world, but he decided to spare Noah and his family? And wasn't it God who came to Abram while he was still among his people? Isn't it God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush?
No matter how many times I've likely heard people say that prayer is not just going to God with our wish lists, my heart hasn't fully understood it. Quite frankly, it still doesn't. I still talk to God most times with a subconscious sense of shame and hesitation, hoping, wishing he would acquiesce my requests. So after reading about Solomon, my mind immediately jumped to the question, where else do we see God coming to us, asking us what we want? Something said, Jesus, and I found that instance in Mark 10:49.
Jesus is walking along with a great crowd following (like usual) and a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, hears them. Bartimaeus begins crying out for mercy, and as the crowd is trying to hush him, Jesus calls Bartimaeus to himself. This is when Jesus--the God-man--says to him, "What do you want me to do for you?"
The man asks for his sight to be restored, and Jesus tells him his faith has made him well. What kind of faith must this man have had?! Definitely one that believed Jesus would hear him out. Let's think about this--this man was a blind beggar.
for his livelihood.
Now take a mental journey with me...Ever seen the guys and gals that stand out on the boulevard medians and ask for money, food, etc., with a cardboard sign in hand? Ever become strangely familiar with them, as you pass them day after day?
How does that feel after a couple days? A week? a few months? I used to pass by a woman with a sign as I drove to my job each day. Then the questions began to come, as I found myself switching lanes to avoid eye contact with her... Why am I doing this? Why do I feel so guilty?
Because she's not just a face passing by, whom I'll never see again. She's persistent. and right now she's dependant on the help of others. So I went to her one day; parked the car and walked out to that median. brought some food, asked her name. Patty. Once there was a name to her face, once I knew her story, how could I not stop and help, ask what she needed?
How much more does God care for us, and want to give us good things? If we are his children, and indeed we are if we've believed on Jesus--adopted by him for eternity--he knows more than our names, and he certainly knows our dependence on him. He said himself, ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find. Like a good father, God longs to give us good things (Mt. 7:7-11).
Remember, God has proven--most fully in the person, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus--that he is always the initiator. He first loved us. He came to us. His grace is a gift, not something we can earn. We just respond. I believe that if I, if you, if we can learn to pray with confidence in God's love for us and desire to give us good gifts, our prayer lives will begin to take on a different shape. I'm not talking about a "name it and claim it" philosophy of asking God for more success, profit or comfort. That's not the gospel. I'm just talking about not approaching God as though we are disturbing him at a bad time.
Hebrews 4:16 says, "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." God has told us to come confidently to him, not in hesitant shame.
HALLELUJAH!So let's realize that when we approach the throne of grace, we already have an open invitation; we are responding to the question he's already asked--
What do you want me to do for you? Ask what I shall give you.