I’ll go ahead and say this right up front: I don’t understand prayer as much as I should. For me it is the hardest of the spiritual disciplines, spiritual conversations, to wrap my thoughts around. While I understand the importance of prayer and the value of prayer, not to mention the obedience of prayer, and in fact I enjoy prayer, especially when I’m alone and moving down the trail in relaxed conversation, it’s hard for me to know what to pray for.
Should I pray for great success in my projects, or should I pray for peace regardless of the outcome? Should I pray for book sales so huge everyone will know it had to come from God, or should I be satisfied and thankful for the loyal circle of friends and readers that God has pulled in around me? How do I honor the talents and desires God has given me without allowing ambition to take over my life? Which one is the path of faith? Which is the path of hope, or contentment, or gratitude, or belief? Which is the path of trust?
So maybe these questions are my feeble attempt at a mid-life crisis … as in, I want success to be more obvious now that I’ve lived more than half my life. Regardless, those are the questions that haunted me this week as I ran and as I biked. Don’t worry, I’m not wigging out over this, but I want to do the right thing. I want to get it right.
Last Friday I read from my Daily Bible about one of the kings of Judah, named Asa. He was an unusual king in that he “did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.” (1 Kings 15:11)
While he was king the nation was attacked by Cushites, a vast army with 300 chariots, a very serious threat. Asa called to the Lord his God to ask for help, saying, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty.” God answered his prayer and intervened in the battle, and Judah won a great, miraculous victory.
However, many years later, after a lifetime of leading the nation as a godly king, Asa responded to a lesser military threat from Israel by purchasing help from Syria. It was a strategic and spiritual mistake, and a holy man named Hanani challenged Asa for relying “on the king of Syria and not on the Lord your God.”
It’s a lesson about lowering your guard even after a long lifetime of following God. It’s a reminder not to depend on your own judgment, and not to trick yourself into believing your own superior problem solving skills were the reason for your long list of victories. Maybe Asa had been rescued by God so many times he took it for granted, convincing himself it was due to his brilliant leadership all along. Hanani told Asa something very powerful, and this is what caught my attention: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)
Hanani’s point: God was anxiously looking for an opportunity to bless Asa again. Obtaining help from God wasn’t tricky or hard - God wanted to help. He was looking for a chance, a clear shot. Asa just didn’t ask.
I occurred to me that maybe this was the answer to my questions about whether I should pray for success with my books or leave it alone and see what God does. I don’t want to be like Asa, depending on my own smarts. I don’t want to give up trying because it’s too much trouble to ask God for help. Maybe He’s still roaming the earth looking for someone to bless. I want to be on His list.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson … Contact Berry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org