“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8
Most Christians these days are praying more than usual. Some are praying for protection, some for the healing of the sick, wisdom for our leaders, and the stop of the Corona virus. Some are asking – pleading – for the eradication of the disease, others boldly demanding it, some directly commanding it to leave in the name of Jesus. Is one approach better than another? And are we praying for God’s will or our own?
In my book BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?) one chapter deals with the “barrier” of wrong priorities. We forget that sometimes what we consider of utmost importance is secondary to God, and vise versa. For example, God has made it clear that He values a person’s spiritual health more than physical health, and eternity more that our brief lives on this earth. He cares more about our deeds than our material wealth.
Does that mean God doesn’t care if we’re sick or dying or out of work? Of course not! He delights in blessing us in every area of life. But when “blessings” don’t seem to be happening, we need ask ourselves whether there is something else going on.
The following is an excerpt from BARRIERS, Chapter Five: Wrong Priorities:
In the Old Testament God was constantly warning the children of Israel of the dangers of prosperity. Moses pleaded with the people not to forget the Lord when they had times of plenty and ease in the Promised Land, and again and again they did just that. The pattern repeats itself throughout history: God blesses His people; they become comfortable; they stray from Him; He disciplines them; they repent and come back to Him; He blesses them again; again they get comfortable and stray. In reading the history of the Israelites, I have been astonished that they never seemed to catch on. It could be because, while I was reading a condensed history of the people, they were living out their lives, day to day, without stepping back to look at the Big Picture – the eternal picture.
Then I realize it isn’t just ancient Israel’s nature; I have seen the same pattern in recent history in the U.S. God has blessed this country more than any other, and over time our culture as a whole has drifted away from Him, with occasional milestones that indicate which direction we are going.
Occasionally there is a disaster that makes headlines – a shooting at Columbine high school, a bombing in Oklahoma City, mass murder on 9-11 – and for a while churches in America overflow with people grieving, searching, maybe even repenting. But it isn’t long before most of them get back to “business as usual,” with attention to God relegated to one hour on Sunday morning, if they think of Him at all.
I have often wondered what would happen if people came to love the Lord in the hard times, but then continued to love Him, even in the good times.
We may never know.
On a smaller scale, take the example of the woman who is praying for her son to know the Lord. Maybe he has known and served Him before, but in times of prosperity he is now distracted by work, vacations, entertainment, money matters, and everything else that comes with an affluent lifestyle. The devoted mother faithfully continues praying that God will get his attention.
The one day the diagnosis comes: terminal cancer.
And now God has his attention!
And what is the request that the prayer team gets? “Pray for healing!”
Now please don’t misunderstand – I’m not at all against healing – I’ve been healed on several occasions, and I’m thankful to God for it. It has enabled me to serve Him with more physical energy and strength. And I do pray that my friends and acquaintances who struggle with sickness will be healed. But I have another prayer for them that I consider far more significant.
Think about it. Which is worse – having cancer, dying at age 50 knowing God and spending eternity in heaven, or living in good health for 100 years without any regard for God, then spending eternity in darkness and regret? I realize it doesn’t have to be one or the other, but it does seem a little ironic that we pray fervently for God to get someone’s attention, and once He does it, what we immediately cry out to Him is, in essence, Make it stop!
After many years of unsuccessful prayers for sick friends, I have changed my approach. Acknowledging that God is ultimately in control, that He has a plan, and that He probably knows way more about what that person really needs than I do, I pray:
Lord, whatever You want to accomplish with this sickness (or job loss, or other trouble) I pray that it will be accomplished in Your perfect will, in Your perfect timing.
And the sooner that is accomplished, the sooner trouble can be done with and victory celebrated.
I have even come to the point where I can pray for myself with this eternal perspective, although sometimes I let my immediate pain keep me in the make-it-stop! mindset, which usually just prolongs the agony and afflicts those around me with my bad attitude at the same time.
Well, one cure for a bad attitude is the realization that I can’t make it by myself. … excerpted from BARRIERS, Chapter 5