Genie in a Bottle

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I received a prayer message from a friend the other day. It was one of those sweet emails meant to give encouragement and make people feel good. It said: Our Father, walk through my house and take away all my worries and illnesses; and please watch over and heal my family. In Jesus’ name, Amen. This prayer is so powerful. Pass this prayer to 12 people including me."

I sat for a few moments, gathering my thoughts about why this particular little prayer disturbed me. My concern is that prayers such as these might cause us to believe things about God that could actually hurt us. When people ask God to take away all their worries, illnesses, and trials, and it doesn’t happen, they often lose faith in God. I realized I could not pass on this prayer because it could cause someone to lose faith if he thinks God will wave a magic wand and make his life perfect and trial free.

God never tells us he will take away all our trials and worries, but he does tell us he will always be with us and help us through them. God tells us he will never forsake us or leave us, but he doesn’t promise we will not have trials in our life.

Sometimes people ask God for the wrong things and when they think he doesn’t deliver, they decide God doesn’t exist and/or God has left them. There are people who put God in a box. Whenever they have a problem they bring him out and expect him to take all their problems away. But is that the way God works? God helps us through things in our lives for our own benefit in order for us to become more like Jesus. Jesus had many blessings and gave many blessings, but He also had trials and troubles along the way which even ended in his death for us.

The ironic, almost humorous, thing about all of this is that the Bible tells us the opposite of what we seem to want to hear. James 1:2-5 says we are supposed to be happy when we encounter difficulties and frustrations in life—we are to "count it all joy"! Wow! That’s quite different from what we like to hear and what we often pray for. Why does James tell us to be happy about our trials? Because trials produce patience, and patience produces wisdom. How often do we pray for wisdom? Sometimes we do, but do we understand how we are going to acquire it? Frequently wisdom comes from trials and experience.

Peter also spoke about the subject of life’s trials and told us to "greatly rejoice" when we experience them. Why would anyone be happy about these things? I certainly don’t like it when another trial comes along and I have to alter my life in order to deal with it. Sometimes we create the circumstances ourselves and then have to deal with them. I try to learn from my mistakes as well as my successes. Don’t most people? I don’t believe Peter and James were speaking only of trials that have to do with religion or church. It’s all about life and how to see life through God’s eyes. People have trouble seeing anything through God’s eyes (1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 94:7-24). David and Samuel had to learn this lesson for the same reason all people have to learn it. Peter tells us the end result is our salvation.

Many Scriptures tell us God will be with us if we trust Him and are faithful to Him. It’s a two way street. We have to meet him halfway. He won’t do it all because it isn’t good for us (Ephesians 4). The only way we can win is by building endurance through practice in running the race. Remember the old saying "no pain, no gain"? The godly life requires endurance so that we can ignore the things that drag us down and learn to see things from God’s perspective, just as children have to learn to see things from an adult vantage point and appreciate the correction their parents give them. Parents who really love their children don’t allow them to coast along without any correction and they also do not shield them from every difficulty. God realizes, as our heavenly Father, that these things will bring about the character He is trying to produce in us. It is for our "profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10).

This is what we should be passing along in this country. We have gotten too soft and too fat, and we want God and the government to attend to us and promise to take care of us no matter what we do or do not do. People are afraid to offend other people with the truth.

David knew he had to meet God halfway and he couldn’t do it on his own. David accepted that it wouldn’t be easy and evil people may walk over us or try to drag us down with them. He didn’t always pray for his enemies to be blessed. Notice how David prayed in Psalm 141:4-10. He prayed they would be caught in their own traps and that God would protect him from their evil behavior.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus prayed a much different prayer than the one I received in my email and was asked to pass along (Matthew 6:9-13). Trials provide the opportunity for us to learn to how to love others (Ecclesiastes 4:8-12). Isn’t that the "golden rule"?

Our prayer should be that God will protect, guide, provide for us, and be with us no matter what comes our way. This doesn’t mean God will not bless us and give us good things, but we shouldn’t expect him to be our "genie in a bottle."




Image Credits: Joel Montes de Oca