Our prayers are a reflection of two things: our priorities and our theology. We pray for what we want (priorities) and we ask for these things based on what we believe about God (theology). If our priorities don’t align with our theology, our priorities tend to win. Rather than pulling our priorities into submission of our theology, we put a Christian label on them and allow our theology to slide. We do it throughout life and even up to the very end of life, which I’ve been discussing on my blog the last couple of days—specifically the troubling finding that 40% of Evangelicals believe that physician assisted suicide is an acceptable option for those who suffer from a painful, terminal disease.
“Dear God, please keep us safe today. Please watch over us and protect us. Please bless us and keep us healthy. Amen.” I’m guessing that many of us are familiar with this prayer or one like it. I confess that I have prayed it and that it can easily become my default prayer if I am not diligent in considering how to align my priorities with right theology.
We here in the United States and much of the western world seek comfort and security and we usually find them. Lifestyles of ease and risk avoidance are considered wise, prudent, successful. Risk-taking is considered foolish. And so we ask for the blessings of health, wealth, safety, and security when we pray. We validate one another and agree in prayer that, “Lord, this trial is tough, so please take it away. Please remove our pain, God.”
The truth is, God is a good Father and He does give good gifts (Matthew 7:11). But often those good gifts are trials, illness, and pain. James tell us to, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). James says that it is trials that will make us complete, not the lack of them!
In Romans, Paul tells us to rejoice in our suffering as it produces endurance, character, and hope because of God’s love (Romans 5:3-5). We see Jesus endure the ultimate suffering, according to the plan of His good Father for our good and His glory. Peter tells us to “rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).
When I am not grounded in the Word of God, my flesh rejects suffering as God’s will and I lazily request comfort and ease from Him. This view of God—which is a reflection of my flesh rather than a reflection of His word—is shallow and unbiblical. And I fear that it is a perspective that pervades the American church. Because we do indeed have the luxury (curse?) of providing health, wealth, and security for ourselves, we believe, if subconsciously, that these gifts are the will of God. So when suffering comes, we try to pray it away, believing that God doesn’t want that for us.
We have allowed our priorities to dictate our theology and we have repeated prayers and encouragement to one another for safety and comfort that we cannot fathom that the Lord would ask us to endure any less. We believe it so deeply that we are willing to artificially and prematurely snuff out the life of an image bearer, rather than to trust in God “who gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25).
Jesus—who suffered the most painful death, taking on the wrath we deserve—taught us to pray to the Father, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10). To begin to address the Evangelical support of physician assisted suicide, we in the church need to start praying for God’s will, not our own.