The other day, my irresistibly charming son started showering me with hugs and kisses while I was in the midst of folding laundry. “You’re my best mommy ever,” he smiled, looking into my eyes while working his awe-inspiring dimples to the max. My heart was melting after a few minutes of his seemingly innocent compliments. That’s when he popped the question. “Will you let me drive the car?”
I’m not sure he understood when I told him he has more than ten years before he’s old enough to get a drivers’ permit. As he walked away, looking dejected, I wondered what his little mind had envisioned when he asked me to let him behind the wheel. And I wondered whether his initial compliments were part of his childlike ploy to get what he really wanted.
How often do we come to God with ulterior motives? We claim our hearts are filled with love and adoration, when really we just want something from him. Our prayers become tools of manipulation, as if we could strong-arm God into doing our will.
There was a time when I desired to have a little house, just big enough for my family and some guests. In the midst of praying for our needs to be met, I learned that a genuine prayer of faith includes the more difficult phrase, “yet not my will, but yours be done.” Modern faith movements would tell us to demand what we want, but true faith believes God has our best interests in mind, whether or not his answers align with our desires.
As for me, I’m glad I prayed that prayer. Not having the burden of a house has enabled us to give more to those who truly need it. When it came time to adopt our son, we didn’t have debt holding us back. My husband was able to go back to school to nurture his artistic gift, and I was able to get my teaching certificate. We’ve both been able to work at a non-profit school, doing what we love at a lower-than-average salary. And we’ve had time to invest in our kids during their most sensitive years. None of this would have been possible if I had demanded something of God we didn’t really need.
When I think of my son’s request, I laugh because I love him and I know he loves me. He’ll grow and he’ll learn. But for those of us who’ve been walking with God for years, it’s time we learn to let go of what we think we need. It’s time to mature in faith. Prayer is a time to align our lives with his desires, not to demand our way. It’s when we say with genuine faith, “not my will, but yours be done.”