Controlling? Who, me?

I don’t think of myself as a controlling person. It’s just that I sometimes think God should handle things a little differently than He does.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m not fooling anyone. So, I admit it. I’m not very open-handed with some of my prayers. But don’t I have good reason to try to control things once in a while? I mean, God sometimes doesn’t seem to follow His own rules!

Before you get upset with me for saying such things, consider these examples of things that I pray about, and you probably do, too.

  • I pray for marriages. God says He hates divorce. So if I pray for friends’ marriages to heal, don’t I have a right to be upset when they break up?
  • I pray for churches. When I pray earnestly for churches not to split, then shouldn’t God intervene? How can it bring Him glory to if people scatter everywhere, hurt, angry, and bewildered? Didn’t Jesus pray for us to be one as He and the Father are one?
  • I pray for young people. When young people I care about choose lifestyles that run counter to God’s ways, aren’t I right to ask God to turn them around and set them back on the path? After all, the parents of these young people dedicated them to Him as babies. They raised them in His ways. So shouldn’t God do something to ensure they stay on His path?
  • I pray for relational healing. When I pray for relationships to reconcile, why would God allow the parties to become more embittered and distant? He’s the one who pronounces blessings on peacemakers and urges us to forgive one another from the heart. So why do those prayers sometimes seem to go unanswered?

I don’t want to sound super-spiritual because I’m not! But I hope you can see that that the prayers I am addressing here are not self-focused please-help-me-find-a-parking-space prayers. They are kingdom-oriented, God-honoring, Scripture-based prayers for things God says are important to Him.

My inner control freak kicks in when I pray about matters that I know are His will—and  He doesn’t come through the way I anticipate He should.

I was fretting about one of these straight-from-Scripture prayers recently when God reminded me of some familiar Bible characters. Jacob, the patriarch, wandered for years before he finally claimed his father’s God as his own. Hagar’s family situation didn’t work out the way she prayed—but God saw her and blessed her and her son. Moses, Israel’s deliverer, murdered a man and hid out for 40 years before stepping into the role God created for him. Hosea lavished his love on a woman who cheated him time and time again—but in the process he discovered God’s love, deeper and more real than he could have ever imagined. Jonah became fish food before he finally turned around and obeyed God’s call. The church at Corinth, even with the super Apostle Paul interceding for it, had all manner of division before finally repenting.

God helped me to see that His path, though always good and right, isn’t necessarily straight and quick. He reminded me that I haven’t read the final chapter yet. Somehow, I figure that if I pray hard enough for kingdom things, then there should be no detours, no washed-out bridges, and no GPS malfunctions. But God’s Word doesn’t say that. God’s people have often traveled on rough and winding paths before reaching the destinations He has planned for them. Whether the delays are a result of their own choices, or because of road blocks He Himself has put up, either way, God hasn’t lost them. His plans will not be thwarted. And He doesn’t need my help, thank you very much.

So, when things seem to go 180-degrees opposite of the direction I’m praying, God is helping me to release control. He’s gently prying open my hands so that I can allow Him to work—even though He is going about it differently and taking longer than I expected.

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