I have a problem with my prayer life. Way more often than not my prayer is,
“Lord, bless me as I [fill in the blank] .”
“Lord, be with me as I [fill in the blank] .
Help me to honor you while I [fill in the blank] .“
Am I wrong to ask God’s blessing on my endeavors? It is the desire of my heart that those things in which I choose to invest my time and energy to be blessed of God.
When was the last time you stopped before an event, activity or endeavor for which you are asking blessing and simply asked God, “Lord, is this what you want me to do?” Or better yet, when was the last time you thought about the future and just asked, “God what do you want me to do?”
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
– James 4.13-15
Everything that we do is only that which God permits. He is in control and he knows our steps, our hours and every intimate detail of our lives.
The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.
– Prov 16.9
And while it is true that God is concerned about every aspect of our lives, He has given us instructions and He has expectations of us for how we live our lives. So, for the sake of making a point, we know that God will not bless us or condone us – even if we ask Him to – if our prayer is,
“God, bless me while I murder these people.”
“God, be with me while I rob this bank.”
God will not eternally bless or join with us in spirit in our sin. Unfortunately, what we often fail to recognize is that the Bible teaches us that whatever is not done in faith is sin (Rom 14.23). Therefore we can do morally neutral or even good deeds, but apart from faith they are sinful. And asking God’s blessing over our plans that have been established without His input is as ludicrous as asking Him to bless us while we rob a bank!
If we attempt to share the Gospel with someone who has never heard without the leadership of God and His prompting, it will fail. Perhaps you will convince the person in his mind, but it is only God who gives life, and it will not be a genuine conversion. If you share the Gospel under the compulsion of the Spirit, you may see no immediate fruit, but it is under His authority that we can remember,
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
– Is 55.11
If we set off on a road trip and ask God to bless our travels, we might have a blast and no hitches along the way. But if God was not sought in the preparation and if He was given no thought other than a request for safety, it was not of Him. If we plan a trip through prayer and thoughtfulness, we might break down, have an accident or get robbed – but we know it was His plan and that He has a greater purpose in it.
God’s blessing does not necessarily mean our comfort. God’s presence does not always mean our success. Sometimes He blows our minds with his kindness, and sometimes He allows us to go through persecution and trials for our Spiritual growth and well being. We know that to be like Christ, we will be hated and persecuted (2 Tim 3.12). Why then do we not expect it?
But what we can be sure of, if we do anything apart from faith, it is sin. And even if our activities go how we want and according to plan, God is not in them and is consequently not honored.
In much the same way we exemplify our lack of faithfulness in planning or preparation when we approach God and pray,
“We welcome you here today.”
“God, we invite you into this place today.”
At face value, this prayer exemplifies our lack of understanding of the nature of God. He is everyone. At all times. We cannot escape His presence, power or authority (Ps 139). We will not walk into a void church building, home or office complex and bring God with us, or invite Him to follow us. But on a deeper and more serious level, it portrays the extent of our individualism and arrogance to assume that we have anything to offer Him. We approach the throne of grace, we do not invite God to enter into our presence. We get on our knees and recognize the fact that we deserve nothing, but his loving kindness reaches out and welcomes us and forgives us. He is God. He is perfect. He is sovereign. We are not.
So let’s stop making our own path. Let’s stop writing our own plan. Let’s ask God what He wants for our lives. Let’s examine the Scriptures to understand what Jesus taught about how we should live our lives and then test our pleasures, our activities, our work, our free time, our everything against that infallible word! And let’s trust Him that when we have examined His Word, when we have surrendered our desires, when we have sought His guidance and wisdom, that whatever happens is for His glory and our good (Rom 8.28).