Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church Amherst, NY
We were sitting at the beach on vacation with about a dozen family members when half a dozen phones beeped and/or vibrated in unison. A prayer request from a family member far away was sent out on the family group-chat:
“Please pray that so-and-so’s baseball team wins.”
The several conversations that were happening simultaneously on the beach united into one large chat about little league baseball. Aunts expressed their hopes for their nephew’s team; uncles asked questions about who was pitching and what the score was. At some point all of their eyes turned to me. My wife’s uncle asked the question many others were thinking:
“Scott, you’re a pastor. Are you going to pray for his team?”
Now, the polite answer would have been yes (even if it wasn’t true). But at this point in time, after days spent with extended family on vacation I had run out of politeness. So I simply said, “Heck no.” And then I went on a high and mighty tirade about spirituality in America.
Indignation consumed the aunts. The uncles were bewildered. My wife was peeved. I stood my ground. I still do. I’m not sure that God cares about which team wins little league baseball games. Moreover, I’m not sure it should be a part of our prayer life either.
Now don’t get me wrong I’ll pray for kids who’re playing baseball. I don’t mind asking God to ensure that they find strength, stay safe, do their best, and win or lose graciously. It’s just that I’m uncomfortable requesting that God do something about an irrelevant and unimportant (not to mention, literally childish) game.
In the book of 1st Kings God approaches King Solomon in a dream and says, “Ask me for anything.”
Ask me for anything.
Imagine for a moment that you’ve been afforded that same opportunity. God knocks at the door of your heart and asks, “What do you want? What can I give you?”
What would you say? How would you reply? How long would you take to think about it? How careful would your prayerful response be?
In 1st Kings Solomon thinks it over and then does an interesting thing. He looks beyond himself to the people around him and says, “I’m in over my head here. I don’t know what I’m doing. Give me wisdom to govern your people. Help me to discern between bad and good.”
God is astonished. God replies, “You could have asked for anything! You could have asked for riches or for long life or for the lives of your enemies. But you’ve asked for wisdom to take care of others. And because you have asked for this I will give you a wise and discerning mind.” 1st Kings 3:5-12
I will not be so audacious as to suggest that we are offering the wrong prayers or too many for that matter. However, I do think there is a lesson to be learned from Solomon’s prayerful encounter with God.
Ask what I should give you.
1st Kings 3:5
When we approach God, what will we ask for?
God will never tire of hearing our prayer requests – even if they’re for our sports teams, the weather, or our lottery ticket. However, we may tire from praying that way. After all, the point of prayer is not to be provided access to an Almighty vending machine, but to be drawn into the heart of God.
Prayer has the power and potential to turn us not inward but outward, not downward to the trivial matters of earth but upward. Through prayer we breathe in God’s Spirit and breathe out grace, love, and peace. Prayer is a gift that should not be squandered.
God asks you today, “What should I give you?” May God be astonished with your response.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.