Do you have people in your life who only talk to you when they want something? Conversations that revolve around the other person’s needs or demands make it hard to develop true fellowship. These one-sided relationships can lead to us feeling used and manipulated. Yet that is exactly what many of us do to God when we only approach Him in prayer with a need or desire. We give Him our laundry lists of prayer requests without spending any time praising Him, thanking Him for our past blessings or seeking a relationship with Him. We pray for future events without acknowledging His help in the past. Our forgetfulness is an indication of our ingratitude toward God and it renders our prayers ineffective.
Yet none of this shocks God. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows we are a forgetful people. He knows our capacity for ingratitude. He knows our capacity for reinventing the truth. He knows our capacity for taking credit for His provision. Throughout the Scriptures we see God reminding His people of His blessings. He often urged them to set up visible memorials of His past provision so they would be filled with prayer and praise. Without these reminders, the people would forget God’s faithfulness.
When God miraculously brought His people out of slavery in Egypt, they quickly succumbed to ingratitude towards God. They grumbled and complained and murmured every time they faced a new challenge, instead of thanking God for His ever-present hand. Their attitude prevented them from entering the Promised Land for 40 years until that grumbling generation had died out in the wilderness.
After God’s people finally reached the Promised Land, God told them to create a monument as a reminder of His supernatural aid in crossing the Jordan River. “When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight’” (Joshua 4:1-3). Joshua carried out the Lord’s commands and explained to the men that this would “serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord.… These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:6,7).
God wants to see prayers that are filled with genuine praise and thanksgiving for what He has done in the past. He wants our hearts to be filled with awe and gratitude for His blessings. He wants us to set up memorials in our hearts testifying to the provisions He has given us.
God does not want to be taken for granted. He does not want to be given our lists of wants without any true desire to know Him. We dishonor God when we relegate Him to the role of magic genie. God answers our prayers to strengthen our faith in Him, to help us trust in His Word, to glorify Himself, and to express His love for us. Imagine how He feels when we respond to His grace and love and mercy with indifference and forgetfulness and presumption.
When we face difficult times, we often become blinded by our problems and forget how God has always provided the solutions to our past troubles. God wants to see that His past aid did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. He wants us to come to Him confidently in prayer, gratefully acknowledging His past mercies. After we have spent time in praise and thanksgiving, we can then ask Him to again help us so that our blessings can glorify Him.
Excerpted from My Journal, a monthly devotional magazine from Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef.
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