“Teach your daughters, teach your sons: pray to God you won’t be overcome by the urgency of the generally insignificant.” -Wayne Watson
This blog has been sort of hanging over my head all day. I knew it was coming. Knew even before today, because in theory it was supposed to exist yesterday, and then tomorrow. I said “devotional,” as if that made sense, as if that’s something one simply writes off the cuff, as if I had some bounty of spiritual wisdom begging to be let forth in neat little packages with which you might water your soul. As if.
Uncertain as to what I’d write, I began to find other things that I “needed” to do. I emptied the dishwasher and scrubbed pots and pans for an hour. I did some contract work. At one point I even “needed” a nap. In the back of my mind lingered the “need” to catch up on a couple TV shows, the “need” to finish Borderlands 2 before Assassin’s Creed 3 comes out, the “need” to take photos for tomorrow’s “necessary” fulfillment of former plans. And somewhere among all those needs, I misplaced another one, the “need” to really make headway on this grad school planning thing before it’s too late.
My dictionary tells me that “need” means something required, something “very important.” Not just important, but very important. And by that criteria, most of today’s needs weren’t. Some of them didn’t even qualify as wants. And at some point, I really had to stop and wonder “what do those words even mean? Do I know what’s actually very important in my life? Do I know what’s essential? And am I wanting the right things?”
Scripture tells us that God will provide everything we need, and therefore we shouldn’t worry. That suggests to me that everything I’m worried about getting or getting done is either already taken care of (in which case I shouldn’t be worrying) or else isn’t actually important (in which case I shouldn’t be worrying). It also suggests that if I were to stop worrying about the unimportant things, and focused only on doing that which mattered, I wouldn’t have cause to worry at all.
It’s grimly amusing how important the most trivial things can seem. Would it really matter if I missed five minutes of some TV show? If the dishes waited an hour or two? If I didn’t play a new game on launch day because I was still enjoying an older game? Of course not. But still I have that rush, that drive, that inability to just let go. And in the wake of all the small things, the real needs get lost: the need to spend more time in prayer and the Word, the need to unplug, the need to focus. When we worry, we rush; when we rush, we mess up; when we mess up, we worry.
Over the course of the past week I have on three separate occasions been presented with the same concept to consider: the dissonance between God’s will and our will. That sounds pretty generic, but let me elaborate. See, I know a couple people currently suffering from cancer. There have been a handful of funerals over the past couple months for people I used to see sitting a few pews down, whose homes I’ve been invited into, whose lives have touched mine. And their deaths were not surprises: they were long in coming, long predicted, and — most importantly — long prayed against.
We are taught, by none other than Christ himself, to pray first and foremost for God’s will to be done. And while we often say prayers with words to that effect, I wonder how often we (or at least, I) truly am seeking God’s will. It seems far more often that I pray for my will, and ask God to, if possible, conform His will to that. “Yeah, I know it’s all about you, but if you could decide to do what I want, that’d be great.” Even the most seemingly selfless prayers — to save a life, for example — tend to lack that element of surrender that seems so crucial to prayer as God intends. The focus is our desire, our request, and that request is pretty much always more specific than God’s will being done.
The problem is not that we pray for inherently bad things. The problem isn’t even that we pray for what we want or need; for what else, really, can we pray for, but what we know? No, the issue is that we are blind to God’s will, and therefore incapable of praying for it in terms that go beyond the extremely vague. We get so caught up in our own lives that the things we learn to consider important we make the mistake of thinking important to God — God, whose plans for us and for his people are so staggeringly beyond the mundane realities we settle for — and so we pray from that close-minded place and then hold God responsible as if he were a slot machine out of which we hope for good but usually get nothing.
I think if we really knew God, were truly seeking a deeper relationship with Him, were actually and honestly working towards greater intimacy with Him, then there would be far less guess work when it came to prayer — who, what, when, how to pray for would all be more obvious, and the doubts and uncertainties would fade away. Our prayers would be answered more frequently, not because we were getting lucky but because we wouldn’t be asking for as many things that were out of line with the greater plan God has.
I encourage you to consider whether you’re a victim of this kind of laughable urgency. Ponder whether you, like me, are placing a premium on tasks, objects, or people that really aren’t nearly as important as your worrying suggests. Then realign with God, and find peace in His good, pleasing, and perfect will.