When visiting my mother recently I was leafing through a well-known magazine and came across an article about a well-known actress who is a professing Christian. The article described her vibrant faith and the role of prayer in her life. I was encouraged by her cultivation of constant prayerfulness. I want to grow in that too.
But the comment that stuck with me was, “I know not to beg [God] for patience, because then he gives me situations in which I have to grow more patient; I learned that lesson!”
God bless her honesty. Over the years many earnest Christians have said similar things to me. Ask God to make you more godly and what happens? You get more difficulty, more struggle, and more pain. Who wants that?
The answer is: we should! Not the pain for its own sake, of course. But if the discipline of pain produces the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11), we should plead for the discipline. If it means we will be more like him, more deeply know him, be freer from fearful unbelief, and have more capacity to love others, we should beg for it. “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4). If we don’t want more patience, what does that say about our view of love?
And what’s the alternative? Shallow love? Half-heartedness? Do we want this description by C. S. Lewis’s to always be true of us?
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (The Weight of Glory).
No! Let’s not be so easily pleased! Let’s not be afraid to ask God to do “whatever it takes” to bring him the greatest glory and us the deepest joy. Let’s really “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Let’s want the Prize!
Oh Father, whatever it takes, increase our love by increasing our patience! Whatever it takes, increase our delight in you! Whatever it takes, align our rogue desires with yours! Whatever it takes teach us to trust you more! And free us to pray these things! In Jesus’ name, amen.
I do understand our actress sister from the magazine, believe me. God does answer these kinds of prayers. I know it from experience and the discipline is often painful. But what I have tasted of God and his promises during these times are so precious I wouldn’t trade them for the world. And I want more. So I keep praying “whatever it takes,” even with some trembling.
Today Jesus is asking you, “What do you want me to do for you” (Luke 18:41)? Don’t be afraid. Ask (Luke 11:9)! “It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).