Stop me if you’ve heard this one:
“I don’t want to pray for patience, because if I do, God will send all sorts of bad things my way to teach me!”
It’s supposed to be a joke, a lighthearted look at life with a God whose ways are not our ways, but the problem is, it tends to reinforce our misconception that God really isn’t a very nice, or likable, guy.
After all, when we ask Him for something we need — like patience, faith, hope, or wisdom — He fulfills the order in the most unpleasant way possible. It’s along the lines of a parent, when asked by his child to give him bread, giving him a stone instead. Or tossing a snake at him when the child asks for fish.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because Someone who knows a whole lot about God, Jesus, is recorded as saying it first, in Matthew 7:11:
“How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Jesus adds.
It doesn’t take much time reading the gospels, especially that of John, to get the idea that 1) Jesus has a very close relationship with His Father and 2) He wants us to have that same close relationship.
What hinders us, however, is something that did not hinder Jesus, because He knew, intimately, who God is; we, however, carry about misconceptions of God, based upon our misinterpreted way of thinking, and belabor under the thought that He plays with us — like a puppeteer — all in the name of making us better people.
But just as no earthly father, of any intelligence or wisdom, expects his child to grow in trust and love with him by teasing the child, or confusing the child, or exasperating the child, so also does God NOT act this way.
Although we think He does. And we justify the hurt we feel we receive at God’s hand by consistently misinterpreting Isaiah 55:8 — “God’s ways are not our ways, you know!”
That they aren’t — they are BETTER than our ways, and it is a lifetime journey of prayer, contemplation, and communing with our Father to truly learn the depth and scope of His mercy, compassion, and grace for us. This is a strong element of what we are seeking when Jesus tells us, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
If you belabor under the misconception of a God who is constantly displeased with you, please read the article complementing this one, Finding the True God When We Worship the Wrong One, at Commonsense Christianity, BeliefNet.