“Now when Jesus heard about John (the Baptist, beheaded), He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, ‘This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’” (Matthew 14:13-15, NASB)
I’ve pointed out that John the Baptist had been beheaded and his disciples came and told Jesus. Undoubtedly Jesus was deeply affected by this news: he and John were cousins and had known each other all their lives. Jesus also knew John had been sent from God as the forerunner to Jesus and his own ministry as the Messiah. He wanted a secluded and quiet place to go to and be alone. But when he and his disciples got to that place, a huge crowd was already there awaiting him. It was anything but quiet and he was far from alone. Jesus, moved by compassion for the milling crowd, welcomed them, giving up his own desire for seclusion to heal and teach those in need.
Then, after hours of serving, the disciples came to Jesus “and said, ‘This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves’” (Matthew 14:15).
As I read these words I thought, “Oh my goodness. Do I sound like that when I pray? How bossy and rude, to talk to GOD that way!”
That’s exactly what was taking place. The disciples were talking to Jesus; I liken it to me talking to God in prayer. The disciples saw a situation that they couldn’t handle (feed thousands of people) and made their best, most reasonable decision and proceeded to tell Jesus what he had to do. Humanly speaking, it makes perfect sense. The disciples had a concern for the masses who needed to eat, but it looks different from the compassion Jesus had, doesn’t it.
I wonder how many times I’ve come to a conclusion similar to the disciples’ when I see a great need. Operating from my own human store of compassion and wisdom, I make the same kind of decision as the disciples made. Then, I go to God and tell him what he ought to do in the situation. Sounds rather pathetic and presumptuous when put in that light. Well, it does to me.
I felt quite convicted. Again.
Honestly, how often do we approach God just like the disciples did? “Here’s my plan God, now I figure if you just do XYZ things will work out fine.” It’s a wonder God doesn’t have sore ribs from laughing at us.
That’s a nicer mental image than him getting red in the face in frustration with us, wouldn’t you agree?
When we approach God in prayer we should be asking him what he wants to do, not telling him what we think he should do.
The point of prayer is not to get our own way but to align ourselves with the mind and will of God.
Recalibrate. That is what I’ve been trying to do, making adjustments in my prayer life. Stop myself from just running into God’s “room” and blurting out my ideas as to what needs to be done, like a little kid who runs to his daddy with his childish ideas. Instead I come first of all seeking and listening for his thoughts on the matter at hand.
So the scenario in Matthew 14 could have read, “and the disciples, seeing the need of the crowd for food, went to Jesus and asked him, ‘what should we do in this situation? We can’t come up with any viable solution, but Jesus, we are sure you’ve thought of something else because that is what you do, what you are good at. Would you let us know what your thoughts are so we can meet the needs we see?’” And then listen for his answer.
So the scenario in my prayer life could look a lot like that too, with practice. From that form of entrance into God’s presence, we can then move to the next “paragraph” in our prayer (Matthew 6:9, 10).