September 19, 2018 • Life for Leaders
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being…
One of my favorite scenes in literature appears in Charles Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist. Oliver, an unfortunate nine-year-old orphan, lives in a workhouse where he and his fellow orphans are poorly treated and even more poorly fed. After the boys draw lots, it falls to poor Oliver to ask the master of the workhouse kitchen for some additional food. In desperate misery, he approaches the master and says, “Please, sir, I want some more.” In astonishment, the master exclaims, “What?” As Oliver repeats his request for more, the master strikes him on the head with his ladle and grabs him to turn him over to the higher authorities. Soon, Oliver is expelled from the workhouse and sold into virtual slavery… all because he had the audacity to ask for more.
When you come before God in prayer, do you ever feel as if God is like the master of Oliver’s kitchen? Do you ever fear that God is going to reject your request, bop you on the head, and send you packing? Do you ever hold back in your requests because you believe at some place deep in your heart that God either doesn’t have what you need or doesn’t want to give it to you?
I’ve been a Christian for a long time, and I like to think that my theology is more-or-less consistent with Scripture, so I know that God is not like Oliver’s kitchen master. But, honestly, sometimes my fears obscure my vision. Sometimes I fail to approach God openly because some part of me is worried that I have exhausted God’s mercy.
If you can relate to this at all, I have good news for you. It is found in Ephesians 3:16, where Paul writes, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you…” Paul prays with confidence in God’s “glorious riches,” knowing that God has more than everything we need. No doubt, Paul remembers what he has revealed elsewhere in Ephesians: that we are forgiven “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (1:7); that God is “rich in mercy” (2:4); that God might show “the incomparable riches of his grace” (2:7); and that the “riches of Christ” are “boundless” (3:8). If God is truly so rich in grace and mercy, then we can approach God in prayer with confidence, with boldness, even with joyful abandon (see Hebrews 4:16).
The God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ loves to give us more when we ask: more grace, more mercy, more power, more love, more of himself. What great news!
Something to Think About:
Do you ever approach God in prayer as if he were like the master of Oliver’s workhouse? Why or why not?
When you come before God in prayer, how do you think about God?
Do you ever hold back in prayer because you worry that you might burden God with your prayers?
Something to Do:
Is there something for which you would like to pray but have been holding back? Be encouraged by Ephesians 3:16 to tell God exactly what you would like. Don’t hold back, but have confidence in the glorious riches of God’s grace.
God, I do want more. More of your grace. More of your mercy. More of your power. More of your love. More of you. I long to be filled to overflowing with all of your fullness! So, yes indeed, please, Lord, I want more! Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
The Spiritual Unity of the Church
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Thank you for the Devotion. Timothy Lewis. Tallulah Falls Georgia
I struggle with the difference between need and want, and often hesitate to ask God for something because I assume God will consider it a “want” rather than a “need.” I am not referring to objects, but, for example, help keeping my knee from reaching the point of needing knee replacement. This also involves wondering whar God thinks is best for the long term and wanting to avoid being disappoined when it appears that God thinks I need to take the more difficult path.
Nancy, thanks for your comment. Yes, indeed. I understand. I think many Christians do. Yet, I think the Scriptures would teach us to ask God for everything we desire, acknowledging our tendency to selfishness, but trusting God to sort it out. As we offer God the desires of our hearts, God has access to our hearts, so as to make our desires more in line with him and his desires.