I can no longer, in good conscience, tell someone in distress, “Trust God, and pray.” There's more to it.
Prayer can easily become a formula for getting our own way, as if we are the character in a movie who has just found an ancient book of incantations—waiting to be read so our wishes will all come true. And this kind of prayer gets us absolutely nowhere.
“God, I trust you. I have a problem and this is how I want You to fix it,” is not a prayer of trust in God. It is a prayer of trust in self.
How we pray is very revealing. I encourage you to let God do some revealing when it comes to your praying. The communication between two people changes as intimacy grows. It is no different with you and God. As your intimacy with God changes, so must your communication.
Sherrel and I are both very responsible people—almost to a fault. Because we are so wired to do everything possible on our end, learning to trust God has been difficult (and we are still learning). I used to tell people: “Well, I go as hard as I can, for as long as I can, and when I reach the end of my rope… then and only then do I let God take over!” I used to brag about this as if it was a badge of honor, when it was nothing more than a label with stupid written on it.
God has recently corrected something in our prayer life. When facing resistance we have always asked Him, “What do we do?” While we should ask God for direction, the attitude behind the question is more important than the question. And God has shown us our attitude sounded more like: “Whadowedo… whadowedo… whadowedo…?” There was a certain amount of hand‐wringing going on when we asked the question. Hand‐wringing and trust however, don't go together.
To fully trust God is to fully relieve myself of the responsibility for the outcome. I'm not saying I don't have a responsibility. I am saying my responsibility is to God and not to the outcome. And there's a big difference.
If I am trying to take some of the responsibility for the outcome along with God, then I am getting in His way. Oh, I do need to help Him by doing what He asks me to do. But I do not need to direct Him. And when I take responsibility for the outcome I am attempting to direct Him.
Think of a friend, who happens to be a master mechanic, stopping by to help you with a car problem. If you had no idea how to fix the problem on your own, you wouldn't be telling Him how to fix your car, would you? Of course not. You wouldn't want to do anything but what he asked you to do.
But if you happen to be a shade‐tree mechanic and your friend happens to have just landed his first job as a professional mechanic, then you have a different situation entirely. In this case, you would be second‐guessing his every move—sometimes helping him and sometimes telling him what to do.
Let me remind you (and me). God didn't just land His job. He's not even just a master mechanic; He created the training course and the manual.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21 ESV)
Going back to our discussion on Friday, can you see how absolute despair makes absolute trust possible? Paul and his companions faced death so often while ministering in Asia that they despaired of life itself.
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. (2 Corinthians 1:8 NIV)
But this despair made room for trust in God. Don't think of despair as just being without hope. Despair also means “to be utterly in want of, to be utterly at a loss, to be utterly destitute of measures or resources.” The resistance these men faced put them a place where they had nothing to trust in within themselves. They were dried up, destitute of anything within themselves.
Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver [us]…. (2 Corinthians 1:9–10 NKJV)
There is great freedom when we have the sentence of death within ourselves—as long as we know Who raises us from the dead. When we have the sentence of death within ourselves, but we also know Who raises the dead, we are free from even attempting to do anything in our own strength. We are free to trust in God completely.
I remember the year I closed my furniture factory. I saw what should have been assets from years and years of hard work by me and my employees turn into liabilities too large for me to handle on my own. I had to negotiate through extremely difficult situations, trying to be honorable in the face of failure. This process went on for months.
I had to liquidate everything I owned. I was “utterly destitute of measures and resources, utterly at a loss, utterly in want of.” I had nothing in myself to trust in… nothing.
But in one of the darkest moments of my life, I was free to trust in God completely. And what was one of the worst periods of my life became one of the most amazing. I saw God do one miracle after another—and I had absolutely nothing to do with any of them. I was free to leave the outcome entirely to Him. It was too big for me. All I could offer was my obedience.
I should have stayed in this place. It's where we all belong. Not without hope—because hope returns… but utterly destitute of our own measures and resources. I wasn't however, intentional about trusting God. And as my hope returned so did my trust in myself.
But God is challenging each of us to a different kind of lifestyle. He is challenging us to voluntarily get rid of everything with our name on it, so we have nothing within ourselves to trust in. He is challenging us to trust in Him completely for our very survival—and to prefer dependence on Him over dependence on ourselves.
Have a good day,