You walk through the doors carrying a small slip of paper and slowly move to the back corner of the store. There you find a woman in a white coat and you hand her your slip of paper. She drifts behind a screen and you hear the sound of tumbling tablets. You have been here before and recognize that you may have to wait a while. Eventually you will receive what only she and people like her can provide. You give her money or a credit card and make your way out of the store with a little white bag. No one but you and she knows what that little white bag contains.
She is, of course, your pharmacist. Your slip of paper contains a prescription written by a doctor who has reached a diagnosis that something is wrong with you. Taking the prescribed medicine she has given you, in the proper way, is meant to right what is wrong. Most times it does. As helpful as she may be, you usually do not know her beyond her role as a pharmacist who dispenses medications that doctors prescribe, though occasionally she may need to speak to you to inform you of the medication’s dosage or side-effects. However, a personal relationship with her is not necessary for her to perform her role of providing what you need or for you to receive your medication.
Sometimes I think we fall into the habit of approaching God with what might be described as “prescription prayers.” We self-diagnose, present God with our slip of paper (prayer) containing what our self-diagnosis has discovered and expect Him to dispense what we have requested in order to right whatever our wrong might be. There are a couple of serious problems with this approach.
Prescription prayers, like the prescriptions presented to your pharmacist, do not necessitate a personal relationship. The Lord has an infinite dispensary and we believe He can dispense whatever we think we need based on our self-diagnosis: power, peace, direction, etc. When we hand in our prescription we wait for it to be filled. We expect God, like a good pharmacist, to provide what was written on our prescription.
Prescription prayers, like the prescriptions presented to your pharmacist, require a diagnosis. The problem here is that this diagnosis is one performed by ourselves and we all know the finite nature of our minds and the wicked nature of our hearts. Our diagnosis may be inaccurate so our prescription is incorrect and will not right our wrong. Of course, this can also happen with your medical doctor because he is neither infinite nor free of sin. Since God is both, we expect him to do better which translates into Him giving us what we ask from Him.
What I have said may raise a question: are we not supposed to pray for the things we need? I’m glad you asked. The problem with prescription prayers is that they set aside our relationship with God and replace it with what He can do for us based on what we think we need. I believe when we pray, God answers by giving Himself and with that giving of Himself come accompanying blessings which meet our needs. He does not dispense little doses of peace or direction but comes Himself bringing peace and direction. We do not pursue the gift apart from the Giver but we pursue the Giver who brings gifts. We allow the Great Physician to offer a second opinion about our diagnosis recognizing that our self-diagnosis may be wrong. This way we ground our hope and confidence in the Lord and not in the things He may or may not provide depending upon His diagnosis, not only as our Physician, but as our Father. So we pray for our needs but we pray for them in the context of our relationship with God, desiring Him more than His provision and realizing that He gives Himself with the accompanying grace we need.
I struggle with this myself because I am selfish and hard of heart and want what I want. Join me in asking the Lord to add glory to the grind by granting us grace to seek Him above all else and rejoice in the abundance of His goodness when He gives Himself and His good gifts.