A right approach to a holy God

A right approach to a holy God

What shape do your prayers tend to have? I know how easy it is to be so self-focussed when it comes to prayer. Whatever issue is dominating my thinking at the time is what I ask for. It is so easy to come to God with our shopping lists, expecting him to fix everything. And even worse than that, we can then get angry with God if he doesn’t give us what we want. This attitude to prayer implies that God is there to do what we want rather than the other way around.

An episode in 2 Kings 1 helps us to think about things in the correct order. King Ahaziah is critically injured and decides to seek out the will of Baal-zebub, a god of a foreign nation, to see if he will recover. The prophet Elijah stops the messengers sent by Ahaziah and sends them back with a rebuke. Ahaziah then needs to decide what to do with this prophet, the representative of the true God, who is stopping him doing what he wants to do.

Ahaziah does what every powerful man who is used to getting what he wants would do. He tries to remove the obstacle. He sends 50 soldiers and a captain to arrest Elijah, demanding that he come with them. Elijah calls down fire from heaven, and the soldiers are killed. Ahaziah sends another 50 and another captain, who is even more demanding. After all, the king had made a command! How dare this strange man of God refuse! Yet, fire comes from heaven once more, and the soldiers are killed.

Isn’t that a little how we sometimes think about God? God, I want to do something, I need this, you have to do it for me! This doesn’t show the respect to God that He is due. God does not have to do what we want. God is God, and we are not. We are approaching the Almighty in prayer; we need to understand a little of who we are talking to.

In contrast, the third captain of 50 soldiers that Ahaziah sends to Elijah has a very different attitude. He is humble. He understands that Elijah represents the true God and has the power of his life or death in his hands. This captain still needs to ask Elijah to come with him, but he does so with respect. And God tells Elijah to go with this man.

That’s a much better example. If we know who we are dealing with, we will be respectful. We will be humble, realising that God can do what we ask, but he might have better plans for us. God is kind to listen to us, and He loves us deeply, but He is still the Almighty God in control of the whole world.

This attitude of reverence and respect is something that easily goes missing in our lives. We can become so familiar and casual with God in prayer, demanding things and getting upset when we don’t get them. We need to be more humble, spending time praising God and reflecting on his character before bringing our requests forward.

It also impacts how we run our public worship services. They should not be mainly about entertainment and be brash and casual with God. When we gather with fellow believers, it is right to have an attitude of reverence and respect. Sure, we can praise Him with gusto, we can ask for things as well. But we should also confess our shortcomings and understand his glory.

God is both our Friend and the Almighty God. Let’s not be so casual that we think we control God, and not so fearful that we cringe in terror. We should come to our God with reverence and respect, knowing that this Powerful God loves us.