The Lord has certainly brought me a very long way during these years with Him, something I have no right or ability to boast in myself. For the most part, I have been a mess barely worth taking the time to manage but He has always been faithful! This life with Him has abounded with ups and downs, I’ve stumbled and been stable, some questions have been answered while others haven’t, I have lost everything and gained something infinitely greater!
At times, admittedly, I have dealt with the frustration of feeling like I don’t fit in anywhere or as though others underestimate me. There’s a very real struggle within each of us to feel as though we matter, something I believe that we often misdirect and focus on improperly. Whatever it may be, whether internal or external struggle, prayer has always been the answer! I cannot emphasize that enough! Communication with our Father is the one thing we have that solidifies our relationship with Him in a way that almost nothing else can! This remains true for any relationship. Try not talking to your spouse, ever, and see how well your marriage works out in the end. Failure would be imminent!
My point in saying all of that is this: Prayer is the method by which our hearts touch the heart of our heavenly Father, where our will submits to His, and we are changed! I want you to understand that, before we go any further into this post, I am in no way saying that prayer is not important!! I’m simply saying that prayer is much more important than what we often use it for!
Two years ago I met my wife in passing at a summer camp that our church puts on, I was a Volunteer and she was taking photos for the church. Nine months ago we married, have moved twice, and ended up taking care of my 15-year-old cousin. A lot of changes have come our way but one thing remains constant, our desire to do the will of our Father! Another thing that has remained constant is the almost unending barrage of “you need to pray and ask God what His will is.”
We make the decision to begin a relationship, “You need to pray and ask God what His will is…” We decide to get married, “You need to pray and ask God what His will is…” We decide to move into a home, “You need to pray and ask God what His will is…” We decide to move into a nicer apartment, “You need to pray and ask God what His will is…” We take in my 15-year-old cousin, who is going through more life trouble than most adults and truly needs a loving home, “You need to pray and ask God what His will is…” We decide to buy a travel trailer and live well beneath our means so that we can give more freely to those in need, and start doing more recreational activities as a family for the 15-year-old girl who needs a solid family, “You need to pray and ask God what His will is…”
I can’t say that I am troubled by the idea of prayer or the act of praying, but I am deeply troubled by that statement! Troubled may not be the right word… Aggravated… Indignant… Those words may describe more appropriately what I feel upon hearing that statement.
I am not above correction, Lord knows sometimes I sincerely need it, and I understand that sometimes I will be underestimated but come on! It seems wise to spew a bunch of religious mumbo jumbo, but anyone who has touched a bible with an honest heart knows God’s will! It isn’t as though He made it hard! When it comes to understanding or knowing the will of God it is quite simple, something that He made sure of so that we have no excuse!
“You need to pray and ask God what His will is…” I can assure that the will of God is to “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me,” it is to “go and sell everything that you own, give to the poor, and follow Me,” it is to “tend to the widows and the orphans,” it is to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the homeless! God is God, yes, but He does not require that we give up our ability to wise decisions or life decisions as long as they are righteous!
To put it simply, so long as you remain within the compassionate and openly generous heat of Christ you do not have to ask God to buy a camper! God is not, for any reason, going to be disappointed at you for simplifying the way that you live so that you can give more money to those in need, buy clothes for those who don’t have them, food for those who are hungry, etc. God is not going to be angry with you for making a decision to take in an emotionally challenged teen, who is underloved and underappreciated, without asking Him first! He literally said to “tend to the orphans” and to love those who are unloved!
Now, I can’t say that some don’t use that statement with honest intentions to get you to seek the Lord, but really guys… there has to come a point where we understand that we are not always the one who is right and that sometimes other people can make righteous and wise decisions without our opinion being injected into their lives! We have a responsibility to correct, edify, and encourage one another but we also have a responsibility to allow our brothers and sisters in Christ to make decisions without throwing them under the proverbial crutch of prayer— which is for communication with God and closeness to Him, not merely a method of asking His permission to make a decision— assuming that we have some heavenly calling to correct every single decision others make! The only responsibility that you have is to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
That does, of course, go two ways! How often do we just say, “I need to pray about it and ask God what His will is,” when someone comes to us in need? This honestly drives me up a wall… Why do you need to pray and ask God what His will is? He told you what His will is! It is to help those in need, to love your neighbor as yourself, feed the hungry, give to the poor, clothe the naked, help widows and orphans, heal the sick, cast out demons, and to do all of it with compassion!
I know it seems like I’m just ranting, but I assure you that I am not! There is so much more to this life than our own opinions, and prayer is so much more than a method of receiving permission! You don’t need permission to help that person, He already gave it, help them! You don’t need permission to change your lifestyle so that you can more those in need, He already told you to sell everything that you own and give to the poor, do it! You don’t need permission to take in someone who has no home or family, He has already told us to do just that! You don’t have to ask permission to help someone who comes to you needing help, that is the entire purpose of the majority of His teachings to us, just help them!
We need to stop allowing people to use prayer as an excuse not to act, and start telling them to act! Let us not forget that “all things are possible with God,” and not only some. As long as we “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” with God, He is not going to fault us for making decisions! Regardless of how badly we may sometimes want to shamelessly shove our opinions down the throats of others, we should learn to refrain from that and trust our brothers and sisters to make wise decisions… One of the defining traits of correction is that it is given when someone does something they shouldn’t that conflicts with the righteousness of God, it isn’t necessary for us to make everything hyper spiritualize and overanalyze someone’s decision to change their living situation. People don’t need you to remind them to “pray and ask God what His will is,” when they’re applying for a new job, moving to a new place, adopting a new family member; His will is that we “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” with Him, that we obey Him, love others as ourselves, and take care of those who cannot do for themselves, He leaves us the room to make some decisions free of His permission but remains with us in them.
Again, I am not saying that prayer is not a beautiful and valuable thing! It most certainly is! It should be cherished and we should strive to spend as much time communicating with our heavenly Father as we possibly can! Without that act of vulnerable and open communication, we would struggle to grow closer to Him at all! That being said, however, prayer should never, for any reason, be the thing that puts a boundary between us and those who are in need! It should never be limited to a metaphorical permission slip that we use to ask God for permission to do the things that He has already commanded us to do! It is not for us to consider ourselves!
If you want to pray regarding helping someone, pray with them and pray for them! If someone asks you for help or if you see that someone needs help, do not waste valuable time to show the love of God to pray about what God’s will is because you don’t want it to affect your life negatively! There is “no greater love than to lay down your own life for another,” and what good comes from telling someone “be clothed and be filled, without giving them what they need for their body?” Pray with them and pray for them, but don’t ask for permission to love them, you were already commanded to!
I know the excuses, “but what if they’re a sexual predator, rapist, murder, or addict? Should I bring them into my home then? I have a spouse and children!” Of course, we should use discretion and prudence, love doesn’t require us to sacrifice wisdom but it does provide us with wisdom! If you can’t take them into your home, help them find a place! Their sin should never hinder us from loving them! Jesus died for the people that nailed Him to the cross, He gave His life for the people that bludgeoned Him beyond recognition— so intensely that He was not recognizable as Himself— and bled to death on that cross as a sacrifice to the men and women who accused Him and condemned Him to it! How much more should we look beyond the sin of others and love them, because “God’s love for us is made apparent in this: that while we were still sinners He sent His Son to die for us!” There is no excuse, our hands are never tied and there is no need for permission to help others; which is the call of our lives in Him!
Stop using prayer as an excuse to keep from acting right away and fulfilling the needs of others! It is the nature of the One Who lives in us to change the lives of every single person He comes into contact with, so let’s stop being foolish and start allowing the King Who resides in us to change the lives of everyone we come into contact with! Let’s start living in the love we are born again into, God is love, and actually change the lives of those who have no hope!