"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ask for suffering

Who ever asks for suffering? Who utters the words, "Lord bring pain in my life". Who, in love, would ask, "bring suffering to my friend's life!"? Who ever asks God for pain? Who, in the world, would ask the Lord to bring famine, heart ache or death?

Why would you ever pray for drought? What a crazy prayer... Lord, please stop the rain and bring drought. Why in the world would you pray for it to stop raining?! Who would do such a thing?! In most of the world, drought is an unrivaled curse. A plague or a curse, right? Not a prayer...

"Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years." (James 5) Why would he have done this? And, why so earnestly? It says he prayed earnestly... he labored in prayer, he fought in prayer, he begged God that it would not rain. Why?

We get a clue as to why Elijah prayed this way in I Kings 19... after the three years of drought, he explains himself. He was zealous, or jealous, for God's glory! He was sick with what he saw the people of God doing, their lives sickened him. He watched in agony as the Israelites continued to disregard God's name and glory. He watched as they fervently disobeyed and dishonored his God, the Lord Almighty. And, his response... jealousy! He was jealous for God's glory.

He knew that God's desire was relationship with his people. He knew that God had warned them time and time again regarding disobedience... and he knew that God cared more about their hearts, His glory and His name than He did about their comfort...

Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord's anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. (Duet. 11)

He knew that what the people needed was to turn back to God. He watched as they were comfortable in their disobedience. They were wayward with no real consequences. He knew that the best thing for the people was pain and suffering. He was desperate to see God get the glory, the honor and the worship he deserved.

And, if pain would do it, this is exactly what Elijah would pray. God's glory was more important to him than rain, than crops or livelihood. God's deserved worship was more important to him than those that might die because of drought. He was zealous for God and it deeply pained him to see the people turning their backs on their God.

And so he prayed. He prayed earnestly for no rain. He prayed for suffering and pain (for himself and others... for he lived in the land with them).

When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and confess your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance. 1 Kings 8

God is not opposed to difficulties in our lives if it will turn our hearts toward Him. He wants our hearts... He is jealous for our hearts. And, He deserves our obedience and worship.
When we pray, maybe we should be more like Elijah and ask for no rain... Maybe, just maybe, then those we are fighting for in prayer will turn their hearts toward God Almighty and give Him the glory He is due.

Would you pray for me?... we ask each other over and over again... "prayer requests" come in frequently.

Yes, I will pray for you--- but I might just be asking for pain.

Affliction is a bitter root, but it bears sweet fruit.

- Thomas Watson
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