Here in Northern Ireland we have been experiencing a bit of a heat wave to start of the summer these past few days – it hasn’t rained in almost a week, and the past few days have seen temperatures above 20oC – nothing special by Mediterranean or American standards but fairly impressive weather for Norn Iron.
And like many people I have been taking advantage of the sun to spend considerable periods of time lying outside “revising” and trying to build up a tan. And I might have overdone it a little bit yesterday, and ended up rather red in the places I had been a bit neglectful with when applying the suntan lotion (in a desire to get an even tan I had applied less to the whiter parts of my arms and legs – bad mistake!).
And then I remember I had an exam this morning, and trying to do an intense writing exam while sore from sunburn would not be fun. So I started to pray… And then it struck me that it was a bit selfish of me to ask God to prevent my redness developing into full-blown sunburn. Because I was the one who had decided to spend the day in the sun, despite knowing the potential result. It felt wrong to ask God to just wipe away the consequences of my actions.
And it got me thinking, that maybe a lot of our prayer is like that. Maybe there are a lot of things we are praying for that are merely pleas for God to undo the negative impact of our own actions, and we would be better asking for the wisdom to not do the foolish stuff instead. Maybe there are many things we are praying for that are just a case of us trying to leave something (or someone) in God’s hands and use it as an excuse to do nothing else ourselves. To paraphrase James 2:15-16 “Suppose you see someone in need (be it in spiritual need of God, or of physical help) and you pray for them but don’t do anything to help, what good does that do?” Because maybe God wants you to be the one that does something to help, rather than just pray that someone would do something. Maybe you are the one who needs to start the conversation about Christianity rather than just praying your friend would come to know Jesus.
So today when you pray, try and avoid asking God to undo the consequences of your actions (or inactions) and instead ask Him for the wisdom to make the right actions and the determination to do something about the needs you are asking Him to meet.