Corrie ten Boom asked, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Make it the former; use prayer to let the Holy Spirit steer you to where God desires to take you. Believe me, it will be far better, infinitely so, than any place you could dream up in your own mind.
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 8:19-20
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”
Here’s a scary thought: God may actually give us what we demand.
I don’t know about you, but as I review the things I have asked the Lord to give me over my life, there are plenty of things in hindsight that I am totally grateful he withheld. There are times that God didn’t answer prayer—at least not in the way I demanded. There were times when he said “no”, there were times when he said, “not now”, there were times when he said, “maybe”, and there were times when he was silent, but in his silence I got the picture: he was clearly saying, “just trust me.”
God is flawless in his wisdom, unassailable in his kindness, and often beyond understanding in his timing. And over the years, I have learned to trust him with the things I am praying for. I am also learning to ask him for what he wants more than what I want. I have learned to be suspicious of the desires of my heart, realizing that on my best day, my heart is still the most deceitful part of me, and yes, desperately wicked. Though I think I do, I really don’t know how bad it is. Jeremiah lamented similarly,
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
For that reason alone, we should be quite circumspect in our asking. Israel wasn’t. They wanted a king—desperately. They wanted to be like other nations, wanting a physical representation of leadership rather than an unseen God. And even though they were warned what a king would demand of them, they were unswayable. This broke Samuel’s heart, but God reminded him that it wasn’t an indictment of the failure of his leadership, it was an indictment of the Israelites’ incomplete trust in God.
At the end of the day, God said to the childish demands of Israel, “Okay, have it your way.” And while the first hundred years of the monarchy was by and large a pleasant thing for Israel, the next several hundred years were not so great. Like the psalmist said of the Israelites in the wilderness,
They soon forgot what God had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease among them. (Psalm 105: 13-15)
Other translations say that God sent leanness to their souls. How sad that God would give into what we persistently and foolishly demand, but in getting what we ask for, we lose what God wants for us. Now this is not to say that we should not feel free to ask of God for the things we need and even the things we want. It is the clear promise of scripture that our Father longs to provide both:
Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. (Psalm 37: 4)
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. (Matthew 6:33)
If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)
What we should be very careful of, however, is not submitting our desires to him first; not allowing him to sanctify our wishes. In the verses above, the operative idea is that we put the business of God first in our lives, then subordinate our wants and dreams to that. When we do that, we will get what God wants, which is always infinitely better that what we can imagine.
So go ahead and ask, but ask for what God wants above all else—may your kingdom come, may your will be done—and you will get a little heaven on earth.