Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)
In my sermon on Friday I addressed in one point the “kingdom-minded, calling focused prayer” of Paul. Speaking on this I exhorted us to see the need for a shift in the priorities of our prayers and I called us to see that very often our prayers reflect what we see as best.
I also qualified my statements by saying that Scripture is clear that we should cast our cares on the Lord and lay our needs and burdens before him, yet we should seek his kingdom and his righteousness first of all. (1 Pt. 5:7, Phil. 4:6, Matt. 6:33)
As I reflected on the sermon later in the day, I felt that I should have shown how these two kinds of prayer requests, the kingdom-minded, calling-focused prayer and prayer for our ordinary needs in this life, go hand-in-hand toward the greater goal. The last thing I want to do is create an unhealthy division in the way we view life which pits the spiritual over against the physical, rather I want to encourage us to bring our temporal needs to the Lord in a way that is kingdom-minded and calling-focused, in a way which is consistent with the “already and not yet” that we live in as Christians – keeping our highest end in sight (to glorify God and enjoy him forever).
Every need, every trial, every twist and turn in life is an opportunity to be sanctified, to grow in Christlikeness. When our job goes bad, this is not irrelevant to my walk with the Lord. When I get sick, this is not outside of God’s bigger picture.
Every temporary burden is an opportunity for growth and we should view it as such. If we pray then merely for our problems to be resolved, then perhaps we are not as kingdom-minded and calling-focused as we should be, not as aware of the reality of God’s absolute sovereignty and love towards us as his children.
We pray that God would help us find a better job, but in and with that request we pray that God would work through this situation to form Christ in us. We even thank God for bringing this into our lives for our good as an opportunity to grow and experience joy that is further untethered from the stuff of now. We pray that God would heal our cousin, but above all we pray that God would be glorified in their life – or in the taking of it!
We don’t divide our prayers into two categories, but rather we seek to have an outlook on every, ordinary aspect of our lives that is centered on God’s glory. We pray seeing the potential for sanctification in every ordinary struggle.