Lord, please give me something that I’ve never worked for or deserve even though I had ample resources and opportunity to obtain it for myself.
People don’t actually pray like that do they?
Oh, but we do.
If I were to pray to God that I suddenly gain physical strength, I wouldn’t expect him to grant me my request. First off that’s not the purpose of prayer and God doesn’t work like a genie, but mainly because that’s ridiculous. I have access to three different gyms that have both free weights and other exercise machines. And though I have seasons where I don’t have free time during the day, most days I have at least a spare hour.
God has provided me with the opportunity to exercise, if I choose not to take advantage of those opportunities – that is my fault.
If I were to pray that God gift me with knowledge when I haven’t studied, I wouldn’t expect him to fulfill that prayer either. Say I chose to fall behind on researching in one of the areas in my field, say broadcast engineering. Suppose I decided to not bother researching it for months – then when a problem arose I asked God to just show me how to fix the issue – why would he want to grant my request? I had the opportunity along and along to do the research and I chose not to. I should pay the consequences.
“But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” Luke 12:48
In spite of the fact that it’s crazy to ask God to give us something we haven’t worked for in the physical or mental realm, we do it all the time when it comes to spiritual discipline. We pray for patience, peace, and knowledge of God’s will. Yet we don’t want to exercise patience. We don’t want to practice peace. We don’t want to study scripture and gain knowledge of God’s will.
Spiritual disciplines are just like other disciplines. It’s absurd for me to walk into a difficult situation asking for God’s will when I haven’t spent time in prayer and time studying scripture, discerning God’s will. It’s foolish for me to ask for God to give me patience in an especially difficult situation when I haven’t practiced patience in the easy situations. God gives us time and opportunities to exercise, it’s up to us to take advantage of the grace he’s given us.
Scripture promises us mercy and grace for sin. We’re not told, however, that we’ll receive more grace when we’re irresponsible with the grace we’ve already been given. In fact we’re told the opposite. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the parable of the talent which contains one of the most ungracious sounding quotes from our savior.
“So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” Matthew 25:28-29
To me it’s clear – the amount of grace that God will bless us with in the future is directly contingent upon whether we’re responsible with that we’ve already been given.
This is what I hear from this scripture:
Don’t squander grace. Be students of scripture and prayer warriors. Be exercising patience and practicing peace. These are things that take hard work to develop. If you don’t invest time in these practices, you’ll never be all that your father wants you to be. Don’t squander grace, exercise it.