ANDALUSIA, AL., March 3, 2014 – “Who am I, to come to God with my burdens?” It is a question many people of faith find themselves pondering all too often, and it’s a question that makes sense. If you have any perspective, it can be easy to feel guilt, or even all-out shame over bothering God with your problems when so much of the world has so much more to put on God’s radar.
It becomes difficult to pray for God’s help losing those last 10 (or 60) pounds when there are children starving in Africa. It can feel uneasy to pray that you make it to work on time so the boss doesn’t fuss, when there are many among us who don’t have a job to go to at all. We can easily get mired down in the notion that our issues are pittances in the grand scheme of things, and we should be solving them on our own, so that God can focus on the weightier stuff.
Here’s the thing, though: God is pretty big. He’s got the time and the will and – most importantly – the power to hear and attend all our problems. Psalm 145 tells us that, “The Lord is near to all who call on him.” We may think it’s our humility that prevents us from coming to God in prayer over what surely are meaningless petitions when compared to the rest of the world. Truly, though, it is our arrogance that leads us to think we need to be the deciders of what is and isn’t important enough for God to address. If we simply rearrange our perception of things, it becomes much easier to come to God with our petitions, both great and small. So how do we do that?
First, we need to remember that prayer is not just a privilege we have. Rather, it is a command. Philippians 4:6 gives us a mandate to prayer when it says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Not only is this a clear directive to prayer, but it is also a specific one. The command is to pray in everything. There’s no caveat or limitation.
There is, however, an order to come in prayer with thanksgiving. This is where we have opportunity to put our specific prayers in perspective. When we come to God with thanksgiving for the things we have been blessed with, it tempers the desperation and magnitude of our problems. We still bring them to God, but with the acknowledgment of the blessings we already enjoy.
This idea that we should come to God in prayer in all things is repeated and reinforced time and again in the Bible. We see it in Thessalonians, Psalms, Peter, James, and again in 1 Timothy, which says, “in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands.” When we see themes like this running throughout the Bible, it’s incumbent upon us to take the lesson and run with it. So pray. A lot.
If you’re still struggling with the idea of praying for your own problems while the rest of the world suffers at such greater magnitude, take heart. You can pray for the rest of the world, too; God will hear them all. There’s an old adage that says the biggest problems in the world are your own. There’s truth there. While there may be bigger issues out there, the biggest ones you will ever encounter are the ones in your own universe. So take heart in the notion that God can and will hear your prayers, and that you are not only just in bringing them to him, you are in fact commanded to do so. That in itself should be a comfort to us all.