I have made answered prayer an idol. I’ve traded seeking the kingdom of God with seeking the things He said He would add, and I’ve desired answers more than the One who promised to answer. It was not a deliberate choice, and I was a little surprised when the Holy Spirit exposed my error. How had I gone from asking the Lord for help to making that help my only aim? When had I allowed my need for provision to overtake my need for the provider?
It reminds me of those trying moments when my kids rush in, barely saying hello, with a look on their faces that says, “I want something, I’m in a hurry, and I don’t plan to take no for an answer.” They don’t even pretend to be interested in me or anything I’ve got going on. Their purpose and focus are singular. It’s all about the request and in no way about the relationship.
There’s nothing appealing about those appeals. And, while the Father is much more merciful than I am, I can’t imagine He enjoys my coming to Him in that way either. I’m certain that’s especially true since He has so graciously promised to give me what I need if I only seek Him and His kingdom first.
I suppose this is the kind of thing that can happen in difficult seasons–seasons when I just want the pain to stop. Seasons when I question who I am, who God is, and everything I’ve come to believe. Seasons when it’s easier for me to see the problem than to seek the problem solver. Seasons when my tendency to worry causes me to forget that my heavenly Father knows exactly what I need and exactly when I need it.
These are the seasons I try to avoid. That might explain why it was so easy for me to shift my focus from the Savior to solutions. It was easy, although I know these are the seasons that produce the most fruit. Too easy, especially since I know these are the seasons that result in real spiritual growth.
So, as I repent here, in the company of friends who can probably relate, I do so with Peter on my mind. It’s not because I know of a time when he made answered prayer an idol, but because I know he’s familiar with taking his eyes off of Jesus in the middle of a difficult time (Matthew 14:22-33). That is essentially what I’ve done in my obsession to get my prayers answered–I’ve turned away from the Master, distracted and afraid. And, much like He did for Peter, Jesus is reaching out His hand to take hold of me in my error. Whether and when He answers my prayer is up to Him. As I focus on Him, I receive what I need either way.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
—Matthew 6:33 ESV