One of the books we recommend in our weekly Gospel Encouragement is Paul Tripp’s devotional New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional. Each morning provides readers with a dose of conviction and encouragement. The last two Mondays (September 6 and 13) were particularly convicting. Both were about prayer. Here’s how last Monday started:
What do you define as blessing? What do you identify as a sign of God’s faithfulness and care? What fills your picture of the “good life”? When you say, ‘If only I had __________, then I’d be content,’ what goes in the blank? When you are tempted to envy the life of someone else, what are you envying? What causes you to question God’s goodness and love? What tempts you to be disappointed with your life? Be honest—what do you want from God?
As a seasoned counselor, Tripp knows that most people want control, success, acceptance, comfort, pleasure, and material blessings. Thus, he concludes:
Now, none of these things is inherently evil. It is not wrong to desire any of them. The question is this: ‘What set of desires rules my heart?’ This is important because the desires that rule your heart determine how you evaluate your life, how you make small and large decisions, and, most importantly, how you think about the goodness and faithfulness of God. . . . [M]aybe your struggle of faith comes from the fact that you don’t really value what he’s working to produce in your heart and life? (italics are mine).
I said ouch as I read those italicized words. The longer I ponder them, the more I see that I do not value what God is working to produce in me. What I count as a blessing and identify as signs of God’s faithfulness and care all center around . . . wait for it . . . me! My wants, my so-called needs, my desires, and my goals.
Setting those reflections against the entirety of biblical revelation, we recall that God invites us to make our needs known to him (Phil. 4:6) and pour out our hearts to him (Psalm 62:8). We do so, however, in a spirit of humility, submissiveness, and willingness to receive how God answers those prayers. We pray with a posture of trust-filled surrender, believing that God knows best.
Speaking personally, I plan to petition God to align my desires with his revealed will in Scripture. I think God wants me to surrender my life to him and demonstrate greater concern for what he’s doing in the world. I also sense that he wants me to be holy, submissive, loving, caring, and caught up in his ever-expanding reign in this world.
Will you consider praying the same for yourself and for your brothers and sisters at Crossroads?