One Prayer We Must Avoid Praying

By Dr. Scott Rodin    

I wonder sometimes if God shakes His head when we pray. Not because He doesn’t love to hear us pray, quite the opposite. And not because our prayers have to be perfectly formed or eloquently spoken. Not in the least. But I wonder if God sighs at our prayers when they are asking Him for things that He knows will do us more harm than good. God loves to answer prayers and give us the desires of our heart. So, when our prayers indicate that our hearts are not right, it must cause Him sadness.

I have recently been convicted of just such a prayer. I have been praying to God for clarity for my future. On the surface, it seems an appropriate, even commendable request. After all, doesn’t God want us to walk in His ways, follow His leading and know and do His will? So, what’s wrong with wanting clarity?

In his book, Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning shares the following story:[1]

“When John Kavanaugh, the noted and famous ethicist, went to Calcutta, he was seeking Mother Teresa … and more. He went for three months to work at “the house of the dying” to find out how best he could spend the rest of his life.

When he met Mother Teresa, he asked her to pray for him. “What do you want me to pray for?” she replied. He then uttered the request he had carried thousands of miles: “Clarity. Pray that I have clarity.”

“No,” Mother Teresa answered, “I will not do that.” When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh said that she always seemed to have clarity, the very kind of clarity he was looking for, Mother Teresa laughed and said: “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

Those words, “clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of” stung my spirit. Could it be that absolute trust and the desire for clarity are antithetical? As I thought about why I wanted clarity I realized that much of it had to do with a desire for certainty that would allow me to ‘walk by sight’. In one sense, clarity meant control. Knowing where I was going next week, next month and next year meant not needing to rely on God’s leading me today.

Perhaps this is what Solomon had in mind when he wrote in Proverbs 3:

Trust in the Lord with
all your heart
    and do not lean on your own understanding;

The Hebrew word for ‘lean’ means literally to prop oneself up on, to support oneself, to trust and rely on something for support. This is the decision we make; to trust in God for each step or to prop ourselves up with our own understanding of where and how we should go.

As steward leaders, we believe that intimacy with God is our highest calling, and knowing and doing His will is our single work. However, ‘knowing’ His will only happens as we walk by faith, setting aside the need and desire for the kind of clarity that throws us back on ourselves instead of onto God. How about you? Are you willing to set aside a desire for clarity and replace it with a step-by-step walk of faith? Will you lead others to do the same?

[1] Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust. Harper Collins,2000.

Dr. Scott Rodin    

Dr. Rodin is the Founder and Content Expert of the Center for Steward Leader Studies. He also serves as President of Kingdom Life Publishing and Rodin Consulting Inc.

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