Remote Control Prayer

Remote Control Prayer

A recent 4-day power outage caused my kids to break out every toy in the house that did not require electricity. One such relic, that had taken backseat to the Play Station for years, was a battery-powered remote control truck. My son was delighted anew with the absolute power of the remote control box resting in the palm of his hand. He pushed the lever forward; the truck drove ahead. He pulled the lever back; the truck reversed. He could even make it chase his sister. What power and control!

Sometimes we expect God to respond to our remote control prayers. We (Americans, at least) live in a society where we can order just about anything we want anytime we want on the internet. At the coffee shop we can choose latte, mocha, skinny or decaf. On TV we have channels for cooking, cars and cartoons with multiple options for every other letter of the alphabet, too. And thanks to our insatiable desire to have everything just the way we want it all the time we are addicted to caffeine, TV, shopping, sports, alcohol and all kinds of troublesome things lurking on the internet. We obviously don’t always choose what’s good for us. Thank goodness God doesn’t respond to us as if we had a remote control.

But why does God sometimes give us things that seem all wrong, or refuse to give us things that appear perfectly good? Well, it’s kind of like the screaming, tear-drenched toddler who doesn’t understand why he can’t eat the whole jumbo package of Oreos being taken from his hands. We can’t foresee all the consequences of getting what we want anymore than that toddler knows how miserable his tummy would feel if he ate all 60 Oreos. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways and God’s thoughts higher than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9) As hard as it is for our flawed and finite minds to comprehend, God is perfectly and infinitely holy. (Psalm 77:13) Unlike us, He does see every possible consequence of our choices and desires from eternity past into eternity future. And He knows every need we will ever have.

Thankfully, God bases His gifts to us on that perfect, comprehensive vision of His and not on our shortsighted, sometimes wrongly-motivated requests. When our family moved from San Antonio to the Detroit suburbs in 1996, housing options were dismal. We had lost money on the Texas house we’d built, decorated and loved only to find that what we could afford in Michigan was a 25-year old colonial that had been “mostly updated.” I remember thinking, “God, we thought we were following your direction in moving here and this is the house you give us?!”

But God knew what we couldn’t foresee. He knew that we would have two more children while living in that house, one of whom would have serious medical issues. He knew that we would need the top-notch pediatricians and Urgent Care (which we visited frequently at all hours) located within 10 minutes of that house. He knew that we would need the University of Michigan pediatric gastrointestinal specialist who was within 30 minutes of that house. (I didn’t even know there was such an expert!) God knew in 1996 what we would need in 1999 and graciously gave us just that.

God asks, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a snake? If you, then though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11) So the next time you send up a “remote control prayer” and don’t get what you want, tell God, “Thank you.” He’s probably just planning ahead. It may be that He’s chosen not to give you what you want so He can give you what you’ll need.

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