Last week we looked at idolatry. Idols fill voids in our lives, but they always fail to satisfy us. Even if we are church and small group attending, bible reading, “good” Christians, we will fall into the pitfalls of idols. We seek satisfaction, and we look for it in both tangible and intangible things alike. We look to people, money, achievements, work, possessions, and grades for life and satisfaction.
We do not have to live that way because we are children of God. We do not have to live under the authority of the idols in our lives because Jesus set us free and broke the chains. When temptations come, ask yourself what a child of God would do. If you aren’t sure what the answer is, look to Jesus. He is the perfect example that we can follow. Throughout scripture, we can find Jesus in communion with the Father.
Many of us know the story outlined in Matthew 14:13-23 in which Jesus feeds the five thousand. If we don’t slow our roll, we will miss very important details in scripture and only see the highlights.
This passage in Matthew is bookended by Jesus withdrawing by Himself to pray. We expect Jesus to leverage His influence and preach to the masses, to teach and save as many people as possible. Oftentimes, we work ourselves dry to reach people and share the good news. While it is good for us to desire to share the Kingdom with those around us, we need to remember that Jesus lived in a way that we are meant to follow. He understood the importance of prayer and solitude with the Father. Our sense of identity, our productivity, and our source of life comes from the time we spend with the Father. Skimming through the Gospels will show you that Jesus was perhaps the busiest person who has ever lived. He had crowds of people around Him all the time. Yet within that busyness, He made finding solitude with the Father a priority in His life.
We ought to strive to have awareness and obedience. Awareness is seeking God’s will above our own, and obedience is doing His will. The more we practice awareness and obedience, the easier it becomes. We begin developing awareness to temptation in our lives, awareness to act upon the ways the Spirit is convicting us, and awareness to pray for certain people and situations.
I don’t always understand the importance of prayer, and I don’t think I’m the only one. The disciples had a hard time grasping the significance as well. We see this in Matthew 26:36-46. While Jesus again withdrew from the group to pray, the disciples fell asleep. The disciples struggled to prioritize prayer the way Jesus did. This same passage happens to be the last moments Jesus and His disciples had together before He was captured to be crucified. Had it been me, I would have used that time to be together, celebrate, mourn, and instill last minute tips and tricks. Again, Jesus did the unexpected. He removed Himself from His disciples and prayed; He sought solitude with His Father rather than communion with His friends. My FOMO (fear of missing out) would have had a field day.
There are a lot of barriers that hold us back from a lifestyle of prayer. We doubt that He really hears and cares about our prayers; we feel we need to clean ourselves up first; we see prayer as a religious checklist item, and we want no part of that; we don’t see our prayers being answered, so what’s the point?
In reality, a close relationship and intimacy with God can only be found through prayer and time spent with Him. The way we pray directly reflects the place our hearts reside. I am constantly in need of a pulse check, so I ask myself these questions.
- What am I praying about?
- Do my idols control my prayer life?
- Do I pray out of my identity as a child of God?
- Do I practice awareness and obedience while I pray?
- Do I seek and obey God’s will when I am aware of it?
I have to remind myself to surrender my idols, control, and plans every day. I catch myself in the pitfalls of idols more often than I catch myself residing in Him. If that’s you as well, do not feel guilty. You need to hear that. Falling into guilt about our idols will actually drive us further away from the Lord. Hear me when I say He does not get angry with us. God is described as gracious, compassionate, and slow to anger throughout all of scripture (I looked it up, and there are more than 7 references throughout scripture to “slow to anger”). He is not looking at His watch every few seconds, sighing with exasperation, waiting for us to figure it out. He is more than willing to get into the nitty gritty mess of life with us, to teach us more about Himself and how to be with Him. All we need to do is ask.
When we pray, we are literally asking a living God to move. Do you believe He will? Are you asking Him to move?
Let’s not get caught sleeping as the disciples were. Let’s step into the fullness and assurance of being a child of God and live in awareness and obedience to His voice.