We tend to think God owes us peace, health, prosperity, and a happy life. You may say, "No, I do not think God owes me anything. I do not approach God in expectation that He will do whatever I want. Moreover, I do not think God has to do anything for me." I will, then, ask you about your prayer life. The last time you approached God in prayer, what was it like? What did it sound like? Were you asking for God to move here, provide there, and help in this event? Was there an attitude in your prayer that you expected God to answer in your way or your timing? Let me give you an example, have you ever prayed for God to give you something and then got mad when you did not receive it? That is because you asked out of expectation without surrendering your will to God's will. Too often, we approach God with an attitude that demands He conform to our thoughts, wants, desires, and will. We impose our American culture upon our relationship with God; we treat him as though He were no more than a spare tire to use when we have a blowout. Do not misunderstand the point I am trying to make; there is nothing wrong with bringing requests, problems, and struggles to God and laying them at His feet. The problem comes in when our attitudes seek to promote our desires for comfort over God's desire for His will.
In Mark 1:40-42 there is an account that depicts how one should approach God with desires and requests. In Mark 1:40 we are introduced to a man who comes to Jesus because he has leprosy. Whether or not the man had what is known today as leprosy or some other skin disease is not the point here, but it is critical to understand that having a contagious disease required one to be separated from the mainstream of society. Thus, without cure, the diseased was sent away from his spouse, his kids, his whole family, and his job. He was sent away from everything; he was as good as dead. This man did not come with a flippant attitude, nor a lackadaisical mindset. The man came to Jesus and, with earnestness in his voice and mindset, he pleaded with Jesus while on his knees in the dust of the ground. Imagine a grown man on his knees looking up at Jesus, begging Him. This man had a condition where Jesus, by human standards, should not be around him. However, this man was on his knees earnestly pleading for Jesus to do something. In Mark 1:40, the man said, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." The man understood that Jesus could make him clean—that is why the man approached Jesus in the first place. The fame of Jesus spread quickly as he began to heal the sickness of those he touched; there is no doubt this man had heard what Jesus could do. The man did not demand of Jesus. Rather he said "If you are willing…" This man knew Jesus had the power, but he also knew that Jesus had the power to heal or not. Notice the attitude here; this man threw himself upon the willingness of Jesus. What a contrast between us and this man! In our American culture/mindset, we expect Jesus to take care of situations. We expect in our haughty attitude that Jesus owes us healing. We even go so far as to blame God when bad situations like this happen to us.
Americanized Christianity can learn some valuable lessons from the short, yet powerful, exchange of Mark 1:40-42. The man within this account approached God with humility, reverence, and with an understanding that God's will may not have been what he wanted from God. As believers, we need to drop the attitude that expects from God and goes so far as to demand that God give to us. Rather, we need to understand that God Almighty is Creator and Sustainer and does not operate by our whims. When we approach God we conform to Him and we submit ourselves to His standard through Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
James Christopher Powell has served as assistant minister in Northwest Florida for ten years.
He studies at The Baptist College of Florida where he is working on a Master's degree in Christians Studies.
He married his wife Jennifer in March 2014.