A single mother huddles closely with her two children, aged 3 and 5, in the backseat of a minivan. A holey blanket wrapped tightly around them is the only thing between them and the bitter cold. Everything they own is in that vehicle. As her children shiver in their sleep, tummies growling, she prays with tears streaming down her face, “Lord, please provide for a warm place to sleep and food for my children!”
A young boy sits in a hospital emergency-room waiting area with a police officer. He has some bumps and bruises, but his father is being worked on frantically by several doctors and nurses. The drunk driver who ran into them was unhurt, yet the boy’s father’s life hangs in the balance. The little boy cries, “Jesus, please don’t take my daddy!”
There’s a village in a third-world country that lacks clean drinking water and adequate food. As a result, nearly all of the children walk about with distended stomachs and stick-thin arms and legs, their hollow eyes telling the story of their pain. Many of these children are being raised by extended family as their parents have succumbed to starvation or disease. Each and every one in the village is praying, “God, I’m hungry and thirsty. Can you give us some food?”
Stories like these are played out every day and all over the world. The pain is excruciatingly real and the needs desperately great.
Recently I encountered a situation in my own life where a useful tool (I won’t say what it is) that I used frequently became unusable. I determined a reasonable replacement that would make life easier in several areas of my life.
Not having the resources to obtain this replacement, and being the “good Christian man” that I am, I looked to the Bible for answers to my situation. I came across John 16:23-24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (ESV). And, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24 ESV).
While I do have a charismatic background, I have never subscribed to the “blab it and grab it” philosophy. God is not here to serve me; I am here to serve Him! I don’t believe that it is right to demand that God gives you a jet or a Rolls Royce. I do believe that He wants us to be blessed, but where do we draw the line?
Is it alright to ask God for shoes, but not >>insert your favorite brand here<<? Or are we alright in asking God for “nice” clothes or cars or golf clubs. Should God be required to just give us what we want?
As is my routine, I lay in bed praying until I fall asleep. Last night I remembered the tool for which I was asking God. Could I get by in life without it? Absolutely, although I’d rather not. I’m just being honest here. I can perform the basic tasks for which I desire it; I may not be able to take things to a higher level, but I could get by without.
This verse came to mind, “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2b-3 ESV). I really had to take a good hard look at myself, and my motives. I can justify my request for the tool in light of my reasonably comfortable First-World, Western existence. But can I justify it in light of the situations I listed at the beginning of this post? Is it alright for me to ask of God luxuries when so many don’t have necessities?
I know that God is a big God. He is more than capable of focusing His attention on all of us when we call upon Him. But when that scripture came to my mind as I was praying I realized that I was praying and thanking Him for the desires of my heart every night, while rarely spending any time praying for those in desperate need! I wasn’t asking God to provide resources for me to minister to those most in need, but only for me and those within my circle of influence.
I’m still not convinced that it is wrong for me to ask of God this tool, but I do know that I’m not entitled to it. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 ESV). He has promised to meet my needs; that should be enough for me. Shouldn’t it?
I have prayers to pray. Before I consider my own wants and desires, I should consider the needs of others. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV).
I know that I am not alone. Ultimately we will all give account for our lives. The next time you make a request of God examine yourself, and ask yourself these questions as a starting point: Is this a want or a need? Have I put the needs of others before my own? Am I asking, or do I feel entitled? Am I asking rightly, or to spend it on my passions?
Philippians 3:15 says, “Let those of us who are mature thing this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you” (ESV). Amen.