Pray With Maturity
Pride and fear can be a lethal combination, as was witnessed in the sad ending of King Jeroboam of Israel. As a young man, Jeroboam had shown great acumen in the tasks he was given, even to the point of gaining rapport with King Solomon. Ironically, God chose Jeroboam to lead as Solomon’s spiritual decline progressed and division within the kingdom resulted. Given the charge to lead the northern tribes, God made the same promise to Jeroboam that he did to David: Follow and obey me and I will establish your throne (I Kings 11:38). Sadly, it did not take long for King Jeroboam to begin faltering spiritually. Fearing his people would defect to the southern kingdom of Judah, Jeroboam set up false gods for them to worship and established a pseudo-religion to keep them content. Fear that God would not be true to His word and pride in wanting to retain power caused great turmoil. As punishment, God told Jeroboam that those of his household would die terrible deaths and find no burial, with the exception of his son. This son would indeed die, yet his death would not be gruesome and proper burial would take place. The reason God did this: “Because in him there is found something pleasing to the Lord, the God of Israel” (I Kings 14:13b). Interestingly, this good son would die as a blessing from the Lord. While many lessons can be gained from this account, one thing stands clear: Blessings from God do not always appear as people think they should.
Prayer is one of the greatest blessings God has given to mankind and God wants His people to have a prayerful spirit, as is indicated by the command given by the apostle Paul to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17 ESV). Jesus encouraged seeking the Lord with the expectation that He will provide: “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10). The Hebrew writer encouraged approaching God with no trepidation: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Indeed, God not only expects, but also desires that His people approach Him with their thanksgiving, anxieties, and petitions.
While prayer is one of the greatest blessings God has given to mankind, it is also one of the most misunderstood. For some, prayer is somewhat akin to the list sent to Santa or the three wishes resulting from a rub on Aladdin’s magic lamp. When God does not perform upon command, disappointment results, leading some to believe that He neither hears nor cares. To avoid this type of faulty faith, it is paramount that God’s people approach Him with a spirit of maturity. Without maturity, Christians run the risk of becoming like the pouting child whose parent will not respond to every whim. How, though, does one reach this maturity?
Prerequisite to an understanding of prayer is an understanding of God. While full comprehension is impossible, it is certainly possible to understand what He has revealed about Himself within His holy word. Within the pages of the Bible, the reader encounters the Creator of all things, Sustainer of life, and Savior of the world; His grand plan is as wide as eternity and His master design seen in every facet of His creation. His greatness is magnified even more in His intimate knowledge of every soul and His great concern for each one. With Fatherly love, He promises, “All things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28b). This, however, is where maturity is essential.
While God promises eternal good for His faithful, He does not promise He will readily reveal how this will be accomplished. Sometimes His answers are straightforward, providing His child exactly what has been requested. Sometimes His answers are puzzling, with the one praying getting a somewhat modified answer to the request. Sometimes His answer is no, since the petitioner’s request might ultimately thwart the possibility of eternal good. Sometimes His answer is wait, because the faithful is not quite ready for the direction a “yes answer” would send. When the answer is anything but yes, maturity will prevent a shallow reaction to the God who knows all. However, this can only come through the kind of relationship that trusts God even when He appears far away.
Does God seem far away from you? Are there prayers in your life that are seemingly unanswered? Have you returned to the Father over and over with pleas and requests, only to have Him deny them time after time? Does it sometimes feel that the God of Heaven is distant and remote? If you have answered yes to these questions, you have experienced what most every saint who is devoted to prayer has encountered. Though God may appear to not listen, this could not be farther from the truth: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer” (I Peter 3:12a). Saints who are seasoned with prayer learn that God knows best and acts accordingly. While “no” answers may be disappointing, joy can ultimately come from knowing that God is preparing His people for great things eternally. These “no” answers may very well be the very thing needed to bring to maturity one who is being made fit for His eternal home. When you feel that God is not doing good for you, remember Jeroboam’s son; his death was a blessing from God for the good found in him. While God’s ways and His answers may appear unconventional at times, maturity brings one to see Him as having everything under control, leading His faithful to their eternal reward.