Confession # 19:
I sometimes fail to expect amazing things from God
This is kind of an inverse younger brother/prodigal confession. This is one thing that the younger brother seemed to grasp that I find myself unable to get my head around.
I was in class on Sunday and a friend of mine pointed something out about the younger brother in the Prodigal God story. while he manages to screw everything up, in the midst of his questionable decisions, there’s one noteworthy characteristic: The prodigal approaches the Father with crazy expectation. And his expectation reflects that he thinks his father is pretty darn gracious and generous. At the beginning of the parable he just rolls up on his dad, expecting a fortune. I guess he recognizes something in the Father’s character that makes him believe he will do something this generous.
Then, when everything in the brother’s life falls apart, he wonders where he can go and he remembers that his father treated the hired men kindly. Were I to ever find myself in the prodigal’s shoes (in a pig pen in the middle of nowhere), my assumption might be that any normal middle-eastern father would never let their child set foot on their property again, but the younger brother seems to have a different expectation. Again – he knows something about the father that leads him to believe that his home is a place where he can return to be met with grace.
I’m not trying to say that the younger brother is right to abuse grace or disobey the Father. But when my friend pointed all this out on Sunday, I gotta admit I was challenged a little. She commented on the level of expectation the younger brother had for the father and wondered why we – who have tasted firsthand the grace and kindness and majesty of God- expect so little of him.
While my tongue proclaims God is gracious and all powerful, my prayer life reflects that I don’t expect Him to be these things with me. I think of my prayers as impositions. I am worried about wording them just right so that He can tell how much I revere Him and how I humble I am (pat on the back). My real requests are obviously too foolish to bring before the throne so I try to plan out more ‘godly’ ones. As if it would be possible to have a request that might be worthy of our God unless it was a request of His Spirit anyway, and as if He would be displeased or disappointed if a child of His came to Him with a request from the heart.
We find ourselves unwilling to treat Him like a Father because it would require us to acknowledge that we are children; that we don’t know everything – or even anything. We are too full of pride to admit that we are helpless to help ourselves and we are unable to even know how to pray or what to pray. I wish I could see myself as the child I am. I wish I could go before the throne uninhibited, able to expect that I will be met with grace because He is a great and gracious God.
I remember this story about Alexander the Great. He had this guy in his military who he favored as his own son. The young general was getting married and so Alexander the Great said he would throw the wedding and foot the bill for all the expenses. When the wedding planning was complete, the general came to Alexander’s financial advisor with the bill. The financial advisor was appalled (maybe he had some Pharisee tendencies). He couldn’t believe high outrageously high the bill was. As it seemed to him the young general had taken complete advantage of Alexander the Great and needed to be penalized publicly for the insult of assuming this amount of debt. The advisor went before Alexander the Great and showed him the bill and asked what kind of punishment he would like to inflict on the young general.
Alexander the Great simply replied that the young general paid him a huge compliment. The financial advisor was thrown, and asked the King to clarify. A to the G explained that the young general obviously thought very highly of his King. He found Alexander to be either exceptionally wealthy or extravagantly generous – and both of those assumptions were filled with praise.
I guess what I’m wrestling with today is that my prayer life reveals what I believe about my Father. And if I’m honest, my prayers reflect that I think my Father is powerless or stingy. I’m afraid to ask him for what I want in case He finds it offensive, which robs me of the opportunity to point to His faithfulness and wisdom. Is He not wise enough to trust my requests with? Is He not faithful enough to do what is best for me? Is He not generous enough to bless me beyond my limited ideas of blessing? Is He not powerful enough to do more than I could ask or imagine?
Is He not a good Father who delights in His children and delights to give good gifts?
Today I pray I would approach the Father as if He is the Father I know He is: perfect, kind, gracious, Holy and good. And even that prayer – which is riddled with wrong motives and twisted intent – I trust to a Father who knows my heart and knows my good – and will act on my behalf for His glory.