The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Practicing Submission in the Way that We Pray

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AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

Without submission, you’re going to end up in Hell. Without sincere submission to your Creators, there is no salvation, there is no spiritual maturity, there is no hope of being invited closer to Them or anything else. Submission is vital. God demands it of you, and He wants more from you today than you were giving Him five years ago. Submission is like trust: we don’t just ring a bell and say, “all done.” Submission is like learning to master an instrument: we keep practicing, we keep learning, we keep growing in our skills and understanding of the concept. You’re not going to conquer the topic of submission on this earth, nor will you graduate on from it when you die. We’re going to be growing in our submission to God for all of eternity. Is this a bummer? Not at all, for submission is one of the critical ingredients which enriches our communion with Him.

Now as with the development of trust, reverence, and dependency, you can’t grow in the area of submission without continuous education from the Holy Spirit. He has to teach you what you don’t know and fill your soul with insight before you can even see where your submission to God is lacking. The great thing about God is that He doesn’t expect you to know things that He hasn’t taught you. You might be treating Him abominably in some area of your life, but until He helps you see this, He isn’t going to get mad at you for it. The Holy Spirit is a kind and gracious Teacher. Towards souls who are eager to please, He is gentle and encouraging. He saves the swift kicks in the behind for His attitudinal brats. So as long as you want to please God, you never need to worry about Him flipping out over you making some honest mistake.

Another great thing about God is that He designs a unique curriculum for every soul who is seeking Him. This means that He is going to teach you in a different order, pace and style than He’s going to teach other Christians. When God assesses your progress, He never compares you to other Christians, nor does He grade on a curve. He assesses you based on how well you are responding to Him directly. If He sees that you’re listening when He speaks and wanting to understand what He’s saying, then He’s quite pleased with you, even if He has to go over the same points with you a zillion times.

Repetition is a major part of every Christian’s training, for so much of what God teaches us feels so profound, that it just keeps falling out of our brains. Sometimes we push His insights away because they frighten us too much. Other times they just sound too good to be true. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to progress, but at bottom we’re all such fearful little creatures and we’re so easily overwhelmed. If the Holy Spirit wasn’t the sort of Teacher who has endless patience with slow learners, there wouldn’t be hope for any of us. But for some unfathomable reason, the Holy Spirit finds endless delight in teaching us. He actually enjoys reminding us of the same principles over and over and over again while we struggle to grip onto them. So often trying to get a grip on God’s truth feels like we’re trying to pick up an apple that’s been dipped in oil—the thing keeps slipping right out of our hands. But the Holy Spirit keeps bringing His truth back to mind so that we can keep trying to get a secure hold on it. It’s a process that can be quite frustrating and tiresome for us, yet we never find Him huffing irritably. As long as He knows we want to please Him, He’ll gladly keep going over the same ground with us as we inch our way down the road of spiritual maturity.

So what does it mean to mature in our relationship with God? It means that we are continuously changing. There is always room for us to improve the way we talk to God, the way we view Him, and the way we try to relate to Him. The difference between the devoted Christian and the carnal Christian is that the devoted Christian really wants to mature. He might be brand new to the faith or have years of growth under his belt, but wherever he is at, he is eager to keep moving forward. Maturity isn’t a task we complete, it’s an eternal process. Maturity is addictive: the more we grow, the more we want to grow. When we talk about spiritual stagnation, we’re talking about souls who have decided that they don’t want to do the work of maturity, and as a result they are starting to lose the progress that they’ve already made.

Spiritual growth is like walking down a treadmill that’s been set on the lowest setting. You can walk faster than the belt is moving, so as long as you keep expending energy, you’ll be gaining ground. But if you stand still, the moving belt will begin to slowly drag you backwards. There’s no such thing as staying in the same place with God for years and years. If you’re not moving forward, you’re going to start sliding back. Your faith will weaken, your trust will erode, and your understanding of truth will become increasingly warped. God has fixed it so that we must put effort into progressing with Him—but it is not the kind of useless striving that the Church promotes. Keeping your body busy in some ministry isn’t going to mature your soul. The work that’s required is all internal: it’s when we sense the Holy Spirit teaching us some new insight and we rush to grab hold of it. It’s when we hear Him bringing up some uncomfortable topic and we engage with Him about it instead of trying to change mental channels. It’s when we feel that internal tap and we pause to listen to what He has to say instead of just blowing Him off. The kind of work God requires from us has nothing to do with religious rituals, daily devotions, or clocking a bunch of hours trying not to fall asleep in a dark prayer closet. Availability is what He wants from us. You can be busy cooking dinner, but if your friend says something to you, do you pause to pay attention or do you pretend you didn’t hear? God doesn’t want us to sit frozen in our chairs waiting for Him to say something. But when He does speak, He wants us to give Him our attention.

Now anytime we adjust what we’re doing to align with God, we’re practicing submission. There are endless opportunities and contexts in which we can practice submission to God. We start off after salvation doing life our own way 99% of the time. When we see ourselves engaging in spiritual activities, such as praying, we often think we’re on the right track. But in reality, prayer becomes a means through which we attempt to dominate God. Through our prayers, we constantly claim that we are superior to God in the areas of wisdom, mercy, love and justice. Don’t believe it? Let’s consider some common Christian prayer requests.

God, please don’t take our brother Tom home yet. His work on earth is not done.

In other words:

God, what is wrong with You? Tom has little kids and a wife. Don’t You know what it does to kids to grow up without a father? Don’t You understand how hard it is to be a single mother in this world? Allow me to educate You about how things work on this earth, since You obviously have no clue. This man is needed here. You’re obviously too shortsighted to see this, so let me save You from making a major mess. You have to heal Tom. I don’t know why You let him get in that car accident in the first place. You really dropped the ball on that one.

Is this an honoring way to address the Creator of all things? Not hardly. The reality is that you’re not smarter than God is. Compared to Him, you’re a complete idiot who doesn’t have the first clue about what is really best for all the souls involved in this very complicated situation. Every life affects countless others. While you’re hyper-focused on the few people you know in this situation, God is looking at the whole picture. While you’re in a rush to make people feel better today, God is considering what is best for everyone in the long-term. You feel threatened by a situation that scares and overwhelms you and you just want God to make it go away. While you set yourself up as being wiser and more caring than God is, you’re really just all about you. If you really cared about Tom, his wife, and his kids, you’d stop with the condescending instructions and let the One who actually knows what He’s doing do what He knows everyone needs. In this situation, you need to stop acting like God’s superior and practice submission. A submissive prayer would sound something like this:

God, I don’t understand what You’re doing and it breaks my heart to see Tom’s family in such grief. Help me to remember that You are infinitely wiser than I am and that You love these people far more than any of us could even imagine. Help me gain confidence in Your goodness and learn everything that You want to teach me through this experience. Help me to accept Your will in this situation, no matter what it is.

This is a prayer that honors God. You are acknowledging that He is the superior One and you are the one who needs further education. You are choosing to be receptive to the lessons that the Holy Spirit wants to teach you, and you’re recognizing that He does indeed have things He wants to teach you, instead of pretending that this trial is just for other people. Instead of getting ready to throw a hissyfit if God doesn’t do what you want, you’re preparing to accept Him dropping more bad news on you. This is the attitude that greatly pleases God. You’re not trying to pretend you’re not upset. You’re being honest, but you’re also choosing to be teachable.

Let’s look at another example.

God, please help all the victims of that horrible earthquake that has claimed so many innocent lives. Please stop the shaking and move our congregation to give generously to the relief fund this Sunday.

In other words:

God, what is wrong with You? How could You act like such an ogre by burying those poor people in the rocks and rubble? You might think You’re some great Judge, but I’m actually far better at assessing those people’s spiritual attitudes than You are. Granted, I’ve never met any of them, but I’ve decided that they must be innocent. The way I see it, anytime someone dies in some graphic way on this earth, that’s an automatic indicator that they were innocent and You were the creep who abandoned them in their desperate hour. So now I’m telling You that You need to knock it off with this nasty behavior and stop shaking the ground. Now let me tell You what needs to happen, since I’m so much wiser than You are: we need to clean up this mess pronto. I’ve come up with this great relief fund idea, so now You need to make the most of this opportunity I’ve created for You and convict the people in this community to do what I want them to do, which is to give a lot of money to this cause. We’ll get the money over there pronto and try to fix this mess that You made as soon as possible.

Is this prayer an act of submission or an attempt at domination? While you pride yourself on being more merciful, compassionate, and wiser than God, you don’t even hear how snarky you are talking to Him. Who was the One who died for you on a cross while you were some defiant little wretch? Jesus. And whose idea was it to shower mercy and grace on your clueless little head at the moment of salvation? Yahweh. You won’t see the day that you outperform God in the areas of compassion and mercy. You don’t have the first clue about how much mercy and grace He has already extended to you, because the Holy Spirit is so graciously shielding you from the ugly reality of what a rebellious little twerp you are. All of this means that you’re in no position to be handing out compassion lectures to God, or to accuse Him of biffing it in His judgement of people. God doesn’t punish the innocent ever. When people get pummeled to death by falling rubble, there are three scenarios playing out. First, some hardcore, unrepentant rebels are getting a much deserved transfer to Hell. Second, some other unrepentant rebels are being put through some long, drawn out death in order to give them yet another chance to repent. Some of them will take that chance, and those falling rocks you have such a problem with will end up being their salvation. Third, the souls who have been accepted by Jesus are getting transferred on to their reward. Exactly what is your problem with this? Do you begrudge God the right to avenge Himself on those who are taking such delight in spitting all over His grace? Do you have an issue with Him giving rebels one last chance to repent? Do you have a beef with Him taking Christians to Heaven? Are you seeing the problem with griping at God when we read about Him mass slaughtering people in the news? God is infinitely more gracious than we can fathom. There’s nothing cruel about God taking Christians on to an eternal paradise which they do not deserve. There’s nothing unreasonable about God saying “enough” after we’ve been given everything we need to repent and submit to His Authority.

When we come across disturbing headlines in the news, we need to be practicing submission, not domination. A submissive prayer would sound something like this:

God, I know that You are good and that You always have our spiritual best in mind. I’m struggling to deal with this situation—there’s so much fear and pain and suffering for those who are still alive. If there’s anything You want me to do to help those who are hurting, You know I am here and wanting to serve You. If You want me to stay out of it, then I want to be willing to accept that as well, because I know You don’t need my help. I want to honor You in the way that I talk about this situation with others. I don’t want to be disrespecting You by calling the things You do bad or awful. I know that You made me aware of this situation for a positive reason—help me to learn everything that You want to teach me so that I can be closer to You.

This is submission. When you pray like this, you are acknowledging your place as the creature who is far too limited to grasp the brilliance of what God is doing. You recognize how insulting it is to God when you attach adjectives like “bad” and “terrible” to the things He is intentionally doing. You recognize that the way He made sure to inform you of what He’s up to in another part of the world demonstrates His intimate involvement in your life. And just like in our first scenario, you take a teachable position with the Holy Spirit by asking Him to help you grow closer to Him through this situation.

If God has involved you, it’s partly about you. If it upsets you, it has the potential to help you grow. We want to do a whole lot more submitting to God in our prayer lives than we are currently doing. The Church is really serving Satan in this area, for she is constantly applauding the flock for practicing domination. As we insult God with our negative descriptions of His work, or deny His sovereignty by talking like demons have temporarily triumphed over Him, the Church is cheering us on. While we sit around telling God what to do and acting like His superiors in every area, we are showered with compliments from our brothers in the Lord. This is total rot. God is our KING, not our subordinate, student, or servant. If we’re going to grow closer to Him, major changes need to be made in the way that we pray.

The attitudes that you practice are the attitudes that will grow stronger within you. Today the Church teaches you to practice dominating God in every area. Even when you’re in a dire crisis, you’re still encouraged to tell Him what to do. When He seems to be dragging His feet about obeying you, you’re taught to break out the guilt-tripping rituals of fasting, laying on of hands, and anointing with oil. You’re taught to throw Scriptures in His face and get your friends to gang up on Him with incessant nagging on your behalf. None of this is honoring. All of this is rebellious rot.

We must remember that it is a privilege to receive further illumination from the Holy Spirit about how we can improve our treatment of our Creators. When we receive such education, we need to cherish it and ask Him to help us apply it. The devoted Christian will want to continuously learn and mature in his relationship with God. Those who are not devoted will refuse to change and tell themselves that it won’t make any difference, for we’ll all end up with the same rewards in the end. How wrong they are.

FURTHER READING:
Asking & Aligning: The Two Stages of Prayer
Praying for the Sick
Praying for Your Flock in a Way that Honors God (Guidance for Pastors & Priests)

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