Step 4 – Turn God’s attention to the problem and ask for His help
And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom Thou wouldest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not; Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of Thy possession, which Thou hast given us to inherit. O our God, wilt Thou not judge them?
II Chronicles 20:10-12
Finally! “And now behold, Lord.” This is perhaps the step in which I have most experience, because unfortunately this is where too many of my prayers have begun. Indeed, many of us should have no problems here. But it cannot hurt to say – turn God’s attention to the problem and thoroughly describe it; give the background and state the current situation. In the verses above, Jehoshaphat describes where the problem began and how things have got to the current point. He reminds God that when the Israelites were marching to the Promised Land, they were warned of God not to distress the Moabites (Deuteronomy 2:9). Now, Jehoshaphat prays, this is how they are rewarding us. That’s really stating the case, beginning with the background and all the way up to the present. He wasn’t blaming God for lack of foresight, either. He was saying the error was with them for repaying Israel’s kindness with evil.
Internal or external?
Let’s remember to get our prayers up out of the clouds and state what the issues really are. You know, we might be surprised. More often than we think, the problems may be internal and not external. A lot of our prayers need to change from “Avenge me, O Lord! Didn’t You say ‘Vengeance is Mine?’ ” to “Lord, help me to pray for my enemy like You said I should. I’ve tried and I just can’t. Give me real Godly love in my heart for them. I want to be like You.” We have got to thoroughly understand the problem, including whether or not the problem is us. Let’s make sure our motives are right, and that we are not pursuing selfish agendas while appearing to be piously on our knees. Christianity is not some kind of white, right magic to make our enemies (whether tribal, political, economic, office-related, or neighbourhood-related) disappear in a puff of smoke. The whole essence of the matter, as stated in the Lord’s Prayer, is for God’s will to be done. God’s will for our lives is perfect. It is not God’s will for you to be sick, or in sin. So He wrote His Word to tell you that you can be free. As earlier stated, find His stated will in His Word and make sure your motives are pure, then you can define the problem clearly and honestly before Him.
I’d like to go back to the Apostles’ prayer in Acts 4. Let’s look at the background a bit. Peter and John had been brought before the same High Priest that had been involved in Christ’s crucifixion a short while earlier. They were having to answer for having healed somebody (religiosity is bad, friends). They told the priests that they were not going to listen to them or stop doing miracles in Christ’s Name. So they were threatened and released. When prayer time came, did they ask God to descend upon the priests with a fistful of lightning bolts? Far from it. They said:
And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy Word, By stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the Name of Thy Holy Child Jesus.
Acts 4:29-30 (KJV)
In other words: “Yes we have been threatened. Yes these are the same men that condemned Christ and caused His crucifixion. But whether or not we are being threatened, the Gospel must be preached. We are Your servants. Grant us boldness to preach, Lord.” No wonder God shook the building. Rather than call for a removal of the problem, they asked for the ability to overcome it. They pointed the finger at themselves and asked for boldness. That’s really mature prayer.
So, even as you define the problem, check: are my motives right? What really needs to change, is it me, or is it the situation? The right prayer at times seems so opposite to the way one would normally pray. At times we are going to need God’s help in understanding life’s issues the way He sees them before we can pray the kind of prayer that He wants prayed. Some of the time, it’ll take the illumination of His vivified Word which discerns the thoughts and the intents of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12) to guide us in the way we should pray or we are going to miss it. Let’s ask for His help in that too. However, once we are sure of how we need to pray, once we are sure we are in His will, let us not be afraid to turn Almighty God’s attention to the problem and say: “Lord, now behold.”
What would you have Him do?
Having turned God’s attention to the problem, it is also important to say what we would like Him to do about it. What a great and effectual door has been opened to us in this. Both Jehoshaphat’s prayer and the Apostles’ prayer in Acts 4 had this feature. Jehoshaphat asked God to judge the Ammonites, the Moabites and the Edomites. The Apostles asked God for boldness to preach the Gospel. We too may ask, and likewise receive.
It seems to me that at this point in his/her prayer, the Christian stands where the blind son of Timaeus stood in Mark 10:51. You have cried out. An unsympathetic, un-understanding, graceless crowd has bid you stop your shouts, but your desperate cry has rung on, ceaseless, oblivious. At last, your desire, your desperation, your cries have attracted His attention. The great Master stands still (amen – Mark 10:49). The recently vehement multitude is now quiet, for He has commanded that you be brought to Him. I can hear your shuffling, stumbling steps in the great silence. Seems to me that in the stillness, I can hear the Master’s Voice as He asks a question that reverberates from His lips all the way through two thousand years or so right down to this moment as I write these words:
“What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?”
What do you want Me to do for you, Samuel? What would you have Him do for you, this morning? This evening? This month? This coming year?
“Lord, that I might receive my sight!”
Per the Scriptures in James 4:2-3 the lack of blessing is correspondent to a lack of correct asking. So brethren, let us ask. Let’s ask God to heal. Let’s ask Him to soften stony hearts. Let’s ask Him to open barren wombs. Let’s ask Him to forgive. Let’s ask Him to bless. Let’s ask for His Presence, His protection, His in-filling, His baptism, His provision, His encouragement. Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,”exhorts the Lord in Matthew 7:7/Luke 11:9.
At long, long last, let us simply, humbly ask.