This is an issue that I have been struggling with lately. Sometimes I feel almost guilty for praying for mundane, temporal, physical things. There are so many bigger issues in this world than my petty needs.
Additionally, I feel that, in light of eternity, all my earthly needs and wants seem petty. I have been battling with asking the Lord for things that are temporal–aren’t we supposed to set our minds (and hearts, and affections) on things above and not on earthly things?
Focusing on Eternity
Now, before I start with my own issues, I want to stress that I am not saying we should focus all our prayers on physical wants, or expect the Lord to fulfill our every whim like some genie in a bottle. It is true that the Bible calls us over and over to make Jesus our lives, to make Him more important than anything and everything, and to live in light of eternity.
When I read through the prayers of the Bible–both Old Testament and New Testament, they are much more God-focused than our typical prayers today tend to be. They are more focused on spiritual matters. They are more focused on matters of eternal significance. It’s so important that we learn from these examples given to us in scripture.
But, as my pastor reminded me yesterday, that doesn’t mean that we should only pray about these weightier matters to the exclusion of the more menial or temporal matters.
Finding a Balance
I was feeling so burdened about this that I chatted with my pastor about it after church on Sunday afternoon and he did his best to ease my mind and point me to what the Word of God says on the subject.
Today, I read my “evening” devotional from Morning & Evening (available online here), and was shocked to see that it dealt with the very topic I had been struggling with!
Here is what Charles Spurgeon says:
Does this evening’s portion meet the eye of a child of God anxious about temporals, then would we reason with him awhile. You trust in Jesus, and only in Jesus, for your salvation, then why are you troubled? “Because of my great care.” Is it not written, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord”? “Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication make known your wants unto God.” Cannot you trust God for temporals? “Ah! I wish I could.” If you cannot trust God for temporals, how dare you trust him for spirituals? Can you trust him for your soul’s redemption, and not rely upon him for a few lesser mercies? Is not God enough for thy need, or is his all-sufficiency too narrow for thy wants?
The Lord is so good to me! Even in something so small as to speak to my heart on this matter…through a devotional written so very long ago! I never cease to be amazed at the Lord’s providence in things like this.
The devotional mentioned one of my favorite passages and one of the first that I purposely committed to memory:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
I love the promise contained there–the promise of the peace of God. (And what a promise it is!). But as I was thinking on this verse today, I noticed something I hadn’t paid much attention to before, “in everything.” The verse doesn’t say that we should only bring certain types of requests to the Lord. It says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything” we can make our requests known to God.
The Lord is patiently showing me that this includes the small, menial, sometimes petty requests.
I’ve been reading through the early Old Testament lately, and have been blown away by all of the complaining the Isrealites have done, even in the midst of so many miracles that the Lord performed on their behalf. Yet it was never enough and they were always doubting, always asking for something more, and throwing toddler-like tantrums if they didn’t get their way. Unfortunately, I think we can all look a bit like this at times.
The Lord often gave them what they asked for, but sometimes it didn’t work out so well for them, and they aroused His anger in the process.
Upon reflecting, I wonder if the Lord’s anger had more to do with their attitudes than their requests. We are told specifically in one of these episodes that “when the people complained, it displeased the Lord.” (Numbers 11:1).
Looking back at Phil 4:6-7, Paul tells us to make our requests “with Thanksgiving.” And I think that’s the key. We should come to the Lord with our requests meekly, humbly, with submission and thanksgiving. Not acting entitled or complaining toward Him.
Submitting to His Will
Finally, we need to have the same mind that was in Jesus at the garden of Gethsemane. He pleaded with the Lord to escape the cup of sorrow and agony that He would be forced to bear. But, even in the midst of His request to the Lord, he still submitted to the authority and will of God Almighty, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
And this is always my prayer. Regardless of what I want…or at least think I want, my prayer is that the Lord would be glorified, that I would be brought closer to Him, and that His will would be carried out in my life because I know that His way is always best.
So, in the meantime, I will be making my requests made known to the Lord–all of them, and praying that His will be done above all else.