Do you ever pray for something you don’t want?
Think back to when we were growing up. When we went through that stage, when our prayers were, well, basically treating God like a vending machine.
Back then, I prayed for all kinds of stuff I wanted.
One thing I never prayed for? Broccoli.
I have never asked God for broccoli. And I never will. I’m just not a fan.
I mean, why would you pray for something you don’t want?
And yet, all of us do. All of us pray for things we don’t want. Pretty much every day.
What am I talking about? You’ve never said “Heavenly Father, today I would like to be in a traffic accident. And if it’s not too much to ask, the next time I drop something, it would be great if it could break. Amen.”
Nobody prays like that.
And yet all of us do something very much like that. Pretty much every day.
We do it when we worry about things. When we constantly bring to mind the things that are laying heaviest on our hearts.
Everything that could go wrong. Everything we’re afraid might happen. Everything we’re afraid might never happen. Everything we’re afraid of losing.
Turning it over in our thoughts, time and again. Replaying “what-ifs,” over and over. In a corrosive parody of praying without ceasing.
One that will eventually poison our relationship with God. And our relationships with each other.
Why do we do that? For any number of reasons. But here are the big ones.
First, we violate the first rule of taking things to God in prayer. You remember that, don’t you? We all learned it in kindergarten. The first rule of taking things to God in prayer?
Okay, for all of you child prodigies who skipped kindergarten and went straight to high school, I’ll just tell you.
When you take something to God in prayer, leave it.
Don’t take it back.
If you went to the doctor to have your broken arm set, when she took off your cast after all those weeks, you wouldn’t say “Thanks Doc. I mean, good work. But I’d really like my broken arm back.”
Right, nobody does that. Because it’s a dumb idea, and it’s obvious that it’s a dumb idea.
If it’s so obvious (and it is), then why is it that you and I do the exact same thing with God?
We take things to God in prayer. And then 5 minutes later we’re back worrying about it. Like we never took it to God in the first place.
Here’s why. And it’s the other big reason. We don’t really believe God.
Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that you and I don’t believe in God.
When Jesus asks “Who do you say that I am,” you and I are right there with Peter – “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” We say it, and we mean it.
And I’m not saying that we don’t mean what we’re saying, when we say the Creed every week.
What I’m saying is that when Jesus tells us something like “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.”
We don’t really think about stuff like that - let alone believe what Jesus is saying. If we hear it read in church, we just kind of let it roll off us. Like water off a duck’s back.
And we miss the point. What Jesus is telling us about how God works.
Well, what does that tell us about how God works? It tells us that when God is at work in our lives, we don’t always get to see every step in the process. We don’t always get to see everything that God is doing.
But just because we don’t get to see everything that God is doing, that doesn’t mean that God isn’t doing things.
Yet, too often we act like that’s the case. It’s almost like we assume that if we can’t see it, then it’s not happening.
Which is really silly when you think about it. Because we don’t make those kinds of demands on anyone else.
When you go to the drive through, you order your burger and your fries. And in the time that it takes to drive around to the window, they put your order together. Even though you don’t get to see any of that happening, somehow it does. And your burger and your fries are waiting for you when you get there.
Truly, that’s how it is with most things. Unless it’s something that we are making with our own hands, we never see most (if any) of the process of it being put together.
Then why would it be any different with God?
So what do we do about it? How do we stop ourselves from doing that? By realizing what it is. What’s really going on inside ourselves.
It’s a trust problem. Our trust problem.
After all, that’s what’s really behind our irrational need to know everything about how God works. I mean, we don’t hold each other to that standard.
And it’s what’s behind our self-sabotage, taking back things that we have trusted to God in prayer.
You and I would rather trust ourselves, people who have failed us time and again. I can’t tell you how many times I have let myself down.
Yet, I would rather trust me, than the One who has loved me from before I was born. Who has never failed me. And each and all of us do that, in our own ways.
How do we trust God?
It starts with getting to know God. With understanding that God isn’t grandma’s good china – something fragile that we only take out for special occasions.
It starts with this season, Ordinary Time. With taking God out of the Easter box. And the Sunday box.
With understanding that the One who made each day, is the One we need every day.
And it starts today. With relying on God.
C.S. Lewis said it well, “Relying on God has to begin all over every day, as if nothing had yet been done.”
Let us begin.