Have you ever thought about how cool it would be to have a Personal Shopper? You send off your shopping list and it all just happens. Of course in this digital age it would all be on your cell phone. You update the list from last week, press the button, and wait. Soon, very soon, your Personal Shopper arrives with a Colgate smile and your goodies, just as you ordered.
Well I’m all in favour, but I have to let you into a secret, although I’m pretty sure you’ve already worked it out: God is not our Personal Shopper, and prayer is not a shopping list. Prayer is about engaging with God on the issues we are concerned about. Of course as we grow in prayer, we begin to engage with God on the issues he is concerned about, but we start with those things that we can become passionate about; we engage with God and we offer ourselves as part of the solution.
The problem in this day and age is that the world focuses almost exclusively on outcomes. Outcomes-Based Education is a little discredited as a policy, but the principle is still very much intact. No one wants to know how many books you’ve read. All they want to know is, Did you pass the exam? How hard you worked is not important; did you graduate? And, in the world of work, no one is interested in the time and effort you put in. Did you make the sale? You might be working harder and longer hours than anyone else in the office, but who cares? Did you get the report in on time? That’s what matters.
So our shopping-list prayers are well suited to the modern world. “Here’s a list, God. Please give us the results we want.”
But God says, “No! That’s not how I made you; that’s not how I wired the universe. The journey is much more important than the destination; the relationship is much more precious than results.”
Prayer is not about results, it’s about relationships. Results, such as healing, may emerge from our prayers, and sometimes the relationship emerges from the healing. That’s what happened to Bartimaeus. He received his sight and he had a choice. Jesus said, “Go, your faith has made you well.” He was free to go, but he chose to follow Jesus; he chose the relationship. But ten lepers were healed by Jesus; nine of them took their healing and ran. Only one returned to say thank you; only one allowed his healing to grow into a relationship. For the others the relationship was lost.
When our prayers are shopping lists, and we only look for results, we lose the greatest gift of all, a relationship with the one who made us, with the one who loves us.
These thoughts emerged when I was writing the story of Bartimaeus. If you haven’t come across it yet, you can read it here.
- Blind Faith: Bartimaeus’s Story (wonderingpreacher.wordpress.com)
- We, too, are blind (wonderingpreacher.wordpress.com)