Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An All Too Familiar Prayer

1 Kings 13 is quite an interesting story.  I am writing out my message from this text this morning and Jeroboam's prayer struck me as very interesting.  A "man of God" had just told him that God was going to judge his whole idolatrous system and he was even given a sign that day as proof that this was from the true God.  Jeroboam couldn't care less about what God says and stretched out his hand to order the man of God's arrest and the Lord withers his arm up. 

Jeroboam's reaction is astonishing.  He doesn't repent, he doesn't submit to the Lord.  He still refers to the Lord as "your God", not "my God".  Instead he asks for one thing, "Ask God to restore my arm to health".  This was done and still Jeroboam doesn't repent. 

What struck me is that sometimes we Christians pray the same way.  We might not be involved in idolatrous practices but we get a pain or some painful trial and we immediately ask the Lord to remove it as if nothing else matters.  Jeroboam should have used this affliction to repent for his unbelief and asked God to forgive him that he might serve him as he ought.  After all, it was the Lord and no one else that had given Jeroboam the kingdom as well as his life to begin with.  His prayer was completely selfish with no thoughts of serving God.

If we or our loved ones or friends are struck with some affliction we should by all means pray for them.  But we need to be careful that the removal of the affliction is all that motivates us to pray.  Our prayer should be that I be delivered that I might serve and honor my God as I ought.  If we pray for help so that we can continue to disobey the Lord or without consciously asking that we are able to use our deliverance for the glory of God then how is our prayer any different than Jeroboam's? 

This is why I try to be careful in my prayers especially when a lost person or a person I do not know asks me to pray for them when they learn that I am a pastor.  I am happy to pray for them but it isn't merely that they be healed or helped with no strings attached.  I pray that God would use this in their life to meet whatever spiritual needs they have.  If they are unsaved then I ask God not to deliver them until you save them.

But if we pray like this for the lost, then let's be careful to pray like this concerning ourselves.  If we have been afflicted because of sin then confess it first before we dare ask God to make us feel better.  And even if we don't know why we hurt, let us be first concern with doing God's will when we pray rather than our first thoughts being the difficulty that we are in.

Perhaps this idolatrous attitude in Jeroboam was seen in the previous chapter.  When they came to Rehoboam to complain about their situation in the kingdom, why wasn't their first complaint directed at the idolatry that Solomon had set up in Israel.  This would lead to a lot more problems in the kingdom under the covenant than their working conditions.  It was because we tend to be consumed only with our own problems and not the Lord's glory.  May God give us a love for him worthy of his glory and may our prayers reflect a love for the Lord more than a love for this flesh.

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