Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord~ James 5:13-14
There are essentially two lines of thinking in the Church world on the subject of prayer. The first crowd believes that because God is God and is endowed with all of the power and clout that goes along with that title, He ought to simply wave a magic wand over our illnesses, bad habits, dysfunctional relationships, and the results of our reckless choices and make them vanish in the time it takes to utter a single prayer.
These folks believe that any provision or delivery that is truly spiritual in nature will come about with absolutely no effort on the part of the person seeking God. Some will even reject needed medical care, believing that prayer ought to be enough to bring about a needed healing.
On the other end of the spectrum are the hard workers who believe that God is a busy guy who should never be bothered without good reason. These folks believe requests should be reserved for the direst of circumstances, and only after every other option has been exhausted. This group quotes “God helps those who help themselves” as if it were Scripture and believe in their heart of hearts that it ought to be.
Both ends of the spectrum are filled with good people motivated by the very best of intentions. The Bible makes it clear that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:16) and those in the first group will never be criticized for lack of faith; common sense or sound logic perhaps, but never faith. Those in the second group have a bent towards self-sufficiency that borderlines on spiritual pride, but no one in their right mind would ever accuse them of lack of effort.
I have been guilty of both extremes. As a doer I gain a great deal of satisfaction from hard work and take a lot of pride in a job well done. Unfortunately, there have been some seasons in my life where I have been so preoccupied with working hard for Jesus that I neglected to really seek God concerning my undertakings, always with less than stellar outcomes. Other times, I confess to using prayer as a cover for a lack of effort and wound up feeling a bit vexed when God did not respond to my “faith “ with a little more action on His end.
I believe balance is typically found squarely in the middle of extremes. We all have a need at some point in our lives that only God provide. I can find nowhere in the Bible where God insisted that a person accomplish some mammoth task before He answered a prayer or provided for a need. God is not a jerk and He does not operate like that. However, sometimes God has someone perform a task as He works out the details of providing a need, as in Luke 7: 12-15:
As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
Our actions or attitudes as we seek God do not determine whether or not God answers prayers to our liking. However, our willingness to obey God in every area of our life as we wait for Him to respond to our prayers reveals the depth of our faith and exposes the condition of our hearts.
I have come to believe that prayer is less about us getting something from God and is more about us getting to know God in a deeper way as we ask Him to meet our needs. Prayer opens the gateway to a relationship with God, and God will sometimes use our needs to pull us into a deeper relationship with Him. Prayer allows God to change us and mold us into His image as we seek Him in a deeper and more meaningful way.
If you are reading this and you have a need that only God can meet, seek Him for your need, but don’t fall into the trap of seeking Him just to meet your need. Use your need as an opportunity to get to know Him in a more meaningful way.