Lord, we confess our wickedness
and that of our ancestors, too.
We all have sinned against you.
For the sake of your reputation, Lord, do not abandon us.
Do not disgrace your own glorious throne.
Please remember us,
and do not break your covenant with us.
I’ll admit, I’m pretty good at coming up with reasons why I think God should answer my prayers. When I go to him, I not only have requests, but I usually have reasons why I think these particular requests are good ones. Reasons why I think it makes sense that God should affect things in the ways I’m asking him to. I think we all do this—and probably far more often than we realize.
I’m not writing this to make a case for why we shouldn’t do this or why it’s somehow bad. Actually, I think it makes a lot of sense. The Bible tells the story of God sending Jesus so that we might have relationship with him through the sacrifice of his son. Relationship. In any healthy relationship communication isn’t just a series of you submitting a list of what you would like from me and me just deciding yes or no based on that. It’s a relationship in which conversation is dynamic and back and forth. Obviously we must understand that we aren’t in the business of convincing God something is a good idea—he knows everything and understands our own logic better than we do. But I do believe he cares about our honest thought process and wants to interact with us. So I don’t think we should stop sharing with God the whys of our requests. We’ll benefit from it even when he doesn’t do what we are asking and hoping for.
Today, I’m thinking more about our reasoning itself. What we think is a good reason for asking something of God. I was struck by this as I discovered just how often in the Bible we find people calling on God and requesting things of him using words like, “for your name’s sake” or “for the sake of your reputation.”
I’m realizing that my reasoning is usually not this selfless. I don’t usually think of the ramifications of my request on God’s name or reputation. I just don’t. When I’m asking God for something I am definitely thinking of how it affects me or how it affects others. Rarely do I think in terms of how it affects God.
I have prayed from time to time genuinely believing that this answer to my request might bring others to praise God more. But I just feel that this goes deeper. This is a thinking further through the implications of my request.
Am I convinced that my request would reveal God in a better light to those who bear witness to what he would do?
Am I thinking of the way others will see God more than I am thinking of how convenient this answered prayer would be for me or those I love?
I may still be wrong. God may still say no. Or wait. I may—and usually don’t—understand the full implications of what this answered request would do versus what it does for the image of God when it goes unanswered. But just being more intentional about thinking this way as I pray is a good challenge for me. To make a request about more than just myself and my interest and my convenience. This has to be a good thing for my relationship with God—and for my prayer life.
“O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, do not delay, O my God, for your people and your city bear your name.”