The preoccupation with ‘blessings’ in our culture is bizarre. We look up to heaven on bright sunny days, delighting in our wealth and the good fortune we have to be feeling happy and well, with no second thought to anyone else.
I think we owe the rush of #blessedlife posts to the existence of social media, and hey… why not celebrate good things, right? Indeed social media is giving us a fantastic opportunity to see the goodness of God live streamed right to our devices. But is there something wrong or at least a bit off about it all? That’s a question my friend Mike was pondering recently when he asked me to write about the #blessedlife phenomenon.
So today, I want to explore the strange and seductive world of God’s glorious riches. We should set some ground rules for the post though. It would be too easy to point the finger at uber-rich evangelists in private jets, so I’m going to leave them alone for today and look instead at the wonderful world of praying for parking spaces.
Praying for parking spaces
We all do it. For you, it might not be a parking space; it might be a red light you need to be green or a person you’re desperate to avoid. In the moment, we all shoot up a prayer and hope that God cares enough to make the day a little easier for us. And why not? Doesn’t it say in Ephesians 6:8 to pray on all occasions? Doesn’t it say in 1 Thessalonians 5 to pray without ceasing? In Psalms 17 it says, I call on you, my God… turn your ear to me and hear my prayer, and in Philippians 4, it explicitly says we shouldn’t be anxious; instead, in every situation, we should present our requests to God.
If all of that is true, then why shouldn’t we brag until the cows come home about our good fortune if we’re having some? Except, if we in the western world pray for good fortune in the moment, sharing #blesslife #godisgood and the like on social media, does that mean people in war-torn countries or third world countries aren’t blessed by God? We pray for a parking space, and one opens up, but they pray for peace, food or even rain, and what are they? #ignoredbygod?
What’s going on here? Isn’t the bible clear? Well, sadly, it isn’t. And even when it is, you need to read it thoroughly. Here’s a practical example for you to ponder. Recently, I saw a #blessedlife post on Instagram which said this:
God will put you in a position where you don’t have to borrow, beg or struggle… Claim it!
To be clear, I don’t know who posted that; they might be the nicest, kindest person in the world. However, what they posted wasn’t a Bible quote, so I don’t know where it came from. The closest Bible passage I could find that this may have been inspired by is Deuteronomy 15:6. In the passage, it says this:
“When the LORD your God blesses you as He has promised, you will lend to many nations but borrow from none; you will rule over many nations but be ruled by none.”
It’s not the same, but I can see where the writer of the previous quote may have got the inspiration. And yeah! Claim that promise, bro! Here’s the problem. Directly before Deuteronomy 15:6 is verses 1-5, which say:
“At the end of every seven years, you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the Lord’s time for cancelling debts has been proclaimed. You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you. However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.”
And this is precisely the problem. Our expectation about what’s happening when things are going right can become ludicrous if there’s no understanding that God’s claimable promises often come with strings. They come with the understanding that we’re obedient.
This is a slight tangent, but I would encourage Christians to believe in luck if I had my own way. I really would. When I pray to God for a car parking space, and one opens up, I want to thank God, as I should in every situation. But I hate the idea that God gives a second thought to me driving my car. Maybe God does, but I hope not.
When I read scripture, I don’t see a lot of situations where a person waves their magic prayer wand, saying the right thing for God to respond. I see people learning to get their hearts and minds tuned into the things of God.
And now for an oxymoron.
In Luke 5:16 it says Jesus frequently withdrew to the wilderness to pray, and we have a pretty good idea of what he was doing because he taught his disciples to pray in the same way, teaching them what we now call The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13
When you hear about Jesus, disciples of Jesus or Christians around the world doing and seeing amazing things; it’s because they first put in the time in prayer; the engine room of faith.
So, although it’s said that Elijah commanded fire from heaven, that Jesus drove demons out of people and that Peter’s shadow healed someone, I promise you that it’s not the same as praying for easy traffic. There’s no magic prayer or chant that makes stuff like that happen. There’s only God and your commitment to asking God to show you what you should be seeing, praying, doing, and indeed blessing in your life.
And while we all practice that, there’s really only one thing we should be doing, and that’s bringing the kingdom of heaven down to earth. Thankfully, although the bible can be complex at times, bringing the kingdom of heaven is surprisingly easy.
If you’re unsure how to do that, you can begin with reading Philippians 2:3-11, which amounts to blessing others first, expecting nothing for yourself; No return, and especially no reward from God.
And if that’s discouraging or frustrating, the good news is that God loves you, because God loves you. Of course, sometimes you’ll be lucky, and sometimes you won’t be. Sometimes you’ll have loads of money, and other times you won’t. Sometimes you might even get the perfect parking slot, and yes, there’s a possibility that God might even care about it. Yet no matter what happens, God is faithful, and in the same way, God loves your faithfulness and delights in you, especially when we’re obedient.
Have a blessed day 😉
If you’re enjoying this series, do consider buying my book ‘Stuck in the Mud: Stories of hope for when you’re stuck.’ It’s available from all Christian bookshops, Amazon, Waterstones and bookshop.org.