My wife, Barb, and I have a terrible time choosing a restaurant. Even pre-pandemic, when it was an “easier” task, we had difficulty arriving at a mutual choice. Barb is a lover of Mexican cuisine, and I am into Italian fare. Usually eating out means one of us caves and lets the other have their way.
There are certain foods either of us will not eat. Barb is a Hawaiian pizza afficionado. I, however, am so appalled at the thought of pineapple on pizza that I would have to be literally starving to eat it. Otherwise, no sirree — not in a million lifetimes would I touch something so sacrilegious to the sanctity of pizza.
“I would have to be starving.” Hmm. I’ve never starved in my life. I don’t know what it means to be starved of food. I’ve heard stories of people who are, and they will take just about anything offered to them to ward off the certain death they face without food. Have you ever starved? No, I mean really?
When it comes to spiritual hunger, we’re still in the “restaurant preference” phase. We want what we want, but aren’t ready to receive whatever it will take to satisfy our hunger. We’re sharing the driver’s seat with God, and, like Barb and I, we’re insisting we have our say in what we receive. Speaking frankly, desperate times call for desperate prayers, but they must not have any terms or conditions attached to them.
Think of manna.
It wasn’t what the Israelites wanted. It wasn’t what anyone ever imagined. It wasn’t based upon their preferences. It was food — God’s food — not theirs, not Egypt’s, and not what they could even conceive. Israel cried out to God with their own menu choices. “The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death’” (Exodus 16:3).
Now think of our prayers that surround the pandemic, the election, and our social struggles. We’re bickering over pineapple on pizza. We’re “praying” our menu toward heaven and expecting God to serve us what we believe will satisfy our limited understanding of hunger.
Hear the Lord.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions’” (Exodus 16:4). Do you and I even know what prayer is when it’s rooted in spiritual starvation? Can we craft language for prayer that doesn’t make any demands of God, offer suggestions for how to fix the world, or embody our personal ideologies or agendas?
We will know prayer that is truly rooted in hunger and thirst when we see outside ourselves, looking upon a spiritually famished world, look upward as a beggar in need, and say, “Father, we will accept from Your hand whatever you would feed us. Feed us rebuke or correction — struggle and challenge — whatever You will, but we’re starving and recognize that only You have the answers.”
Feast on humility.
“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
Friends, it’s time to stop insisting that we have a say in the “restaurant” of our choosing. We’re hungry — starving really — but are we hungry enough to “eat” whatever is set before us?
And that’s my viewpoint.
Brett Heintzman is the publisher of LIGHT + LIFE through his role as the communications director of the Free Methodist Church – USA, which he also serves as the co-director of the National Prayer Ministry. Visit freemethodistbooks.com to order his books “Becoming a Person of Prayer,” “Holy People” (Volume 1 of the “Vital” series), “Jericho: Your Journey to Deliverance and Freedom” and “The Crossroads: Asking for the Ancient Paths.”