Last week I wrote about the importance of spending time in prayer. We know that communication is vital to sustaining a healthy relationship, therefore, the same principle applies to our relationship with God. However, a relationship with God is very different from all our other relationships. For instance, God is all-knowing, all-powerful and sovereign amongst other things. So, if God knows best, He does not need my input on running the universe. If He is all-powerful, then He will do what He wants regardless of my objections and so on. So why bother with prayer?
C. S. Lewis once argued that the more we succeed in imagining a world full of robotic beings, the more we would see the wisdom of God in giving us free will. God in His wisdom allows us to have what Blaise Pascal termed the dignity of causality; being able to affect what happens in this world through our choices. Some things may be beyond our control but God has placed a lot within our control. He makes us partners with Him in bringing about human life. He allows us to make our own decisions even though we often make decisions that hurt other people and adversely impact the world He created. Astonishingly, God allows us to question Him and even change His mind.
The book of Habakkuk is an example of a man questioning God. In Habakkuk’s day, he witnessed the leaders in Judah oppress the poor and he questioned why God would allow such injustice and let wicked people prosper. God tells him He is executing justice and raising up the Babylonians to punish Judah for its sins. Habakkuk then argued that the Babylonians were far more wicked than the Judeans. Essentially, he was questioning God’s approach. However, God tells him to have faith that He will also deal with the Babylonians at the appointed time.
Habakkuk is not the only one who questioned God. Abraham bargained futilely with God to save Sodom [Genesis 18:16-33]. Moses successfully changed God’s mind in Exodus 32 after Israel committed idolatry. God wanted to wipe out the entire nation [Exodus 32:9-10] but Moses pleaded, and God changed His mind. When King Hezekiah fell sick and was told He would die soon by Isaiah [2 Kings 20], Hezekiah pleaded with God and God extended his life by 15 years. Jesus’ first miracle was at the behest of His mother even though His time had not come [John 2]. These examples show some flexibility in the way God deals with us.
So why bother with prayer? Well, it is the most powerful tool we have to deal with the circumstances of life. It can affect the God who controls the present and the future. Through prayer, God offers us a way to leverage His power to change our lives and the lives of others. We can intercede for ourselves and others as Abraham and Moses did. As I write, the police are investigating the murders of two teenagers in London. Yet again, families are mourning young lives being cut short. I find I have become so desensitised to these stories because they seem to be daily occurrences. But is that the right response? Who is praying the families affected by the senseless violence? Who is praying for God to intervene? Having the mind of Christ [I Corinthians 2:16] should lead me to show greater empathy towards others if I let the Holy Spirit lead me.
We can see that there is a lot wrong with the world. I often complain about it, but it is only recently that I have started taking those complaints to God. Habakkuk challenges me to bring the evil I see before God because He can do something about it. The same applies when I am overwhelmed by life. I have to remind myself that God can redeem any situation. I find comfort in taking my complaints to Him just like Job. However, I have often wondered how I would respond if I lost both my kids in one day like Job did, would I be able to say, “though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him” [Job 13:15], would I persist with my complaints [Job 23:1-5] or turn my back on God? I do not know what life will throw at me and where my breaking point is but I hope and pray that I will “place my burdens on God because He promises to handle them when I can’t” [Proverbs 12:25, 1 Peter 5:7].
Lastly, I have found that when I spend time with God in prayer, my perspective invariably changes. I am usually reminded that God is far greater than all my problems. It recently occurred to me that on a sunny day, I can hold up a plate and block out the sunlight but only from my perspective. If I imagine that the plate represents all my problems and everything that overwhelms me, and the sun represents God, then from my perspective, the plate is all I can see. My problems demand my full attention and usually create an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and despair, but from God’s perspective, the plate is really small. Seeing my circumstances through His eyes reminds me who is really in charge, all-knowing and all-powerful. These days I am acutely aware that if I want to sustain that divine perspective, I need to talk to God regularly. If I do, my anxiety and despair are replaced with hope and peace.
How are you doing? Are you overwhelmed by life? Are you riddled with anxiety and despair? What are you doing about it?