“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
THE MOST FERVENT DESIRES THAT WE BRING TO GOD IN PRAYER OUGHT TO BE DESIRES HAVING TO DO WITH HIS GLORY, HIS PURPOSES, AND HIS WILL. Too often, the only question on our minds is whether God is working things out the way we wish. Rarely do we concern ourselves with the more important question: whether what is happening redounds to the praise of God’s glory. Properly understood, prayer is about God, not about us.
Like the disciples, we all need to say, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). But learning how to pray is not simply learning more effective ways to ask for what we want. As we learn to pray, we must learn to want the higher things that relate to God’s rule and His righteousness, and we must learn to want them for higher reasons than those that usually motivate us. Both our requests and our reasons for making them indicate how far along the road of spiritual growth we’ve traveled. As we learn to seek God more diligently, the less selfishly we’ll pray for what we want from God and the more genuinely we’ll desire what God wants for us.
Much of modern prayer is characterized by what can only be called a “demanding” spirit. Conditioned as we are to think that “feeling good” is the main thing in life, our dealings with God tend to revolve around His ability to do whatever will make us feel better. But this utilitarian approach kills the communication that God seeks from us. When we think of no more than God’s usefulness to us and, in effect, threaten to quit believing if He doesn’t straighten out every one of our difficulties, we’re being childish and shortsighted, if not outright blasphemous. God is not Santa Claus, and real prayer has to do with far more than whether He is giving us what we want. To “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” means, among other things, that we lay aside our demands and simply trust God to give us what we need — giving thanks that His gifts always result in His greater glory.
“O Lord, let me not henceforth desire health or life except to spend them for you, with you, and in you. You alone know what is good for me; do therefore what seems best to you. Give to me or take from me; conform my will to yours; and grant that with humble and perfect submission and in holy confidence I may receive the orders of your eternal providence, and may equally adore all that comes to me from you” (Blaise Pascal).