Place God’s will first.
Help! I have been abandoned by my wife and invaded by grandchildren. Bo, my poodle, has wisely retreated to the safety of his kennel, leaving me to face the onslaught of these kids by myself. So far I have endured the ordeal. Fifteen minutes down and about eight hours remain to go.
Let’s be clear. I love my kids and grandkids. I enjoy their company–at least in the right situations. But having several of them, of different interests, genders, and ages, simply sharing the house with me for a day is not something that I do easily or naturally. Let me take them on a hike or to the museum or camping or something, but don’t make me just hang out in the land of TV’s, tablets, and computers.
It’s not my desire to spend my day overseeing these kids, but then I have to remember that my desires are not the ruling force here. Is it my desire that these four stay cooped up in their mom’s apartment unsupervised all day? It sure isn’t God’s will.
Do I trust God? Do you? We hopefully say that we do, but do we really trust Him? If I trust God, then I’ll trust that putting His will before mine will work out for the best and my actions will prove that trust. Today that act of putting His will first involves keeping a good attitude during the occupation.
- In what situations do you find it hardest to put God’s will ahead of your own?
- Do you ever struggle to distinguish God’s will from your own will? How do you manage?
- Pray, just like Jesus instructed, that God’s will be done in and through your life.
Square your accounts with God and man.
Why does Jesus seem so intent on getting us to forgive each other? I thought the most important thing for Christians to do was to pray and listen to K-Love. Instead, rather than dwelling on the really important stuff, like my sins being forgiven, Jesus is muddying the waters here by telling me that I have to forgive others.
Forgive us our debts–yay!–as we forgive our debtors. Why did He have to throw that in? Then, should we decide that that whole “as we forgive” was just a meaningless addition, He tags on with verses 14 and 15, making it abundantly clear that forgiveness is not optional.
I’m typically not a grudgy sort of person, but I do have a couple of people who have–in my humble opinion–wronged me in the past. Two of these were definitely Christians, people who should have known better than to deal with me so poorly. Why did they do it? I’m not sure.
What I am fairly sure of, several years down the road from both of these conflicts, is that I’m not really a blip on these people’s radar. Do they remember this event? Probably not. So why do I? Is it doing me any good? Does it advance God’s kingdom or make me happier? No and no.
Forgiveness is hard, but it is essential. It’s essential to be forgiven by God and it’s essential that we forgive others.
- Who do you find it difficult to forgive from your past? Are you justified in feeling badly used by that person?
- Does God give any indication of caring about the righteousness of your grudge?
- Pray that God will expose the grudges that you hold and help you deal in forgiveness going forward.
Depend on God for everything.
Several friends and I used to play Monopoly when I lived in Oxford, England. These weren’t your old-school, four-hour Monopoly endurance spectacles. We played fast and furious, everyone paying attention, moving the little thimble or iron as soon as the dice settled, and calling out the rent as quickly as possible. Player one would be settling up accounts on buying Illinois Avenue as player two was moving to the Reading Railroad. We called it Economic Armageddon.
One of the keys to keeping these games moving quickly was not getting bogged down in change-making. When the rent was $22, we’d toss $25 or $20 across the board, making mental note that this person owed or was owed a small sum. We knew that, even if we forgot them, these small amounts wouldn’t change the outcome of the game. On the other, when somebody landed on North Carolina Avenue (complete with four houses), we gleefully collected everything that was owed.
Monopoly is all about driving the other players to ruin. It’s all about getting every bit of the limited resources that exist in the game’s universe, taking them from the people around you. Sometimes we look at life as if it were a game of Monopoly, with our goal being to grab as much of the world’s limited resources as possible. That’s not what God has called us to do.
Instead of depending on our wiles and the luck of a dice roll, God wants us to depend on Him and know that He has limitless resources at his disposal. Economic Armageddon can be fun when played on a game board, but it’s pointless in real life.
- In what areas of your life do you find it difficult to trust in God’s provision?
- Can you name a time in which God has seemed to provide for you in a manner that defies rational explanation?
- Pray that above all else, God will make you trust in his willingness to care for your needs.
1 Kings 19:12
Pray by listening as well as speaking.
When I call my employer’s computer help desk, I am not calling for a stupid reason. They don’t need to ask me if the computer is plugged in or if I’m trying to read email with a spreadsheet program. By the time I call, I’ve usually done a pretty thorough job of trying to diagnose the problem and ensuring that I can’t fix it myself.
One of my greatest aggravations then is when, as I detail what the computer is doing and what steps did not solve the problem, I have some tech on the phone ask, “Are you sure you used the right password?”
“Yes!” I want to scream. “I couldn’t have done what I’ve just described without the password!” I don’t scream, but I do grow annoyed when they don’t listen. How much more quickly could they close a ticket if they listened?
Even more foolish than those occasional non-listening help desk workers am I when I pray to God and then don’t bother listening for his response. That response might come in a still small voice, a coincidentally helpful scripture reading, a friend’s random words, or something else. But if I’m not listening, then I’m wasting a great opportunity.
- What was the last time that you experienced a response to a prayer? What form did that response take?
- How many different ways have you experienced God replying to your prayers or those of others?
- Dedicate yourself not just to the sending of messages through prayer but to the receiving of whatever response God has to offer.
Pray about everything that matters to you.
A friend told me today something interesting. It seems that his son, Jacob, a fourth-grader, is filling his prayers with concerns for the fate of a once-great retailer: K-Mart.
At first, Jacob prayed for the corporation itself. When his parents explained that they probably didn’t need to pray for the company, he changed his tack and began to pray for all the people who stand to be out of work as K-Mart slowly goes out of business.
Honestly, I’m a bit humbled by Jacob’s prayers. When I saw the going-out-of-business sign on my local K-Mart, my first reaction was “It’s about time.” But this young man saw that sign and realized that the demise of a store would touch people’s lives. It troubled him, so he took the matter to God.
I’ve taught kids for many years, so I’ve heard many peculiar prayer requests. But in the end, is there such a thing as a peculiar prayer? If I’m sincerely concerned about something, the integrity of my tires, the neighbor’s peach tree, or the fate of K-Mart employees, then why shouldn’t I take that to my heavenly Father?
Too often, we can be lulled into thinking that topics are not lofty enough or important enough to merit prayer. That’s just wrong. In those cases when we do pray foolishly, God will gently correct us, just as those parents guided Jacob.
- Is there anything that you consider inappropriate as a subject for prayer? Why?
- What are some “trivial” things that you have felt led to include in your prayers in the past? How did those prayers work out?
- Go through your week looking for things that you normally wouldn’t include in your prayers and discuss them with God to see where they take you.