How to pray for something that you know you need but desperately don’t want.

Ever found yourself in a position where you have had to ask God for something you knew you should want, but actually didn’t want at all?  Like the ability to forgive someone who has deeply hurt you and refuses to repent?  Or the ability to repent for a sin that you aren’t quite sure was a sin, and had quite enjoyed committing?  Or the ability to respond respectfully to your parents or boss or teacher and submit to them when they give you a tough time over something you either didn’t do or hadn’t known you were doing, or at least, hadn’t thought was all that bad?

Admit it.  You’ve been there.  It’s the proverbial “OMG that’s soooo unfair!!!” moment.  You know you need to pray that God will help you to forgive, repent, submit – but you don’t want to.  You don’t feel like you should have to do those things.  In fact, you feel you have every right to hate those who have remorselessly wronged you, to do what makes you feel good, to stand up for yourself, to fight your corner, because you think you’re in the right, and it seems criminal to have to deny yourself the justice that’s due to you.  However, even if you can think of a million ways of justifying yourself, at the very least you know that the Bible says you ought to pray for repentance, forgiveness, submission and everything else that is required to love the Lord your God and your neighbour as yourself, and you know that if you don’t, you’ll have God to answer to.  Now, you might ask, how can I honestly get down on my knees and beg God to give me something that I not only don’t want, but vehemently hate the idea of having, and can’t see the justice in having to ask for?  One answer is: pray through the degrees of separation between you and the desire for the thing which you know you need, and one day you will cherish that thing as your own.

You might not want to forgive your selfish, thieving, ungrateful little liar of a sister, even though the Bible says that you have to forgive her.  But do you want to want to forgive her?  And if you can’t even bring yourself to desire to want to forgive your little sister, can you want to want to want to forgive her?  If even this is too much, can you want to want to want to want to forgive her?  And so on and so forth.  Carry on down the degrees of separation, and you will probably come up with a petition that accurately describes where you’re at.  God can then remove each degree of separation one by one, until you actually do desire the thing that you hadn’t originally wanted to have to ask for.

It might seem ridiculous, but no matter how many degrees of separation there are between you and the desire for that thing you know you need to pray for, you can always say, “Lord, help me to want to want to want to want to want to…”.  It’s an honest plea, and it’s something that God can work through with you step by step, until his sanctifying work in you eventually does enable you to forgive, repent, submit or do whatever else you need to do in order to honour God with your heart-attitude.  And as for the grievance done to you, the sin you don’t think you’ve committed, or the accusation you think has been unfairly levelled at you – be encouraged that God who sees all things and roots for those whom he loves knows whether you’re in the right or not, and will reward you for submitting to his Word regardless of how entitled you think the circumstances might make you to do otherwise.

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