Some people love cats and other people, well, don’t love them as much. One reason that cats can get hate is because unlike dogs, they aren’t pure lovers. Dogs will love you and cuddle you with no ulterior motive other than adoration. Cats will love and cuddle you, but most of the time they show affection because they want something. I hate to say that my kitties, Hossa and Turner, are no exception. They will follow me all over the place, cuddle, purr, rub up against my leg - and though sometimes I lie to myself and pretend they do that because they love me, I know the truth: it’s not me they love, it’s food. And it struck me that we can do that with God - when we have wants/needs, we’re quick to spend time with God, praise Him, pray to Him, worship Him. But as soon as those prayers are answered in one particular way, communication can tend to drop off a bit. Our relationship with God can become almost like asking a genie for wishes to be granted.
What does God’s Word have to say about a relationship that is hyper focused on our own wants, desires, and needs? Is God just a genie in a bottle that we can pray to? Are we just a bunch of cats only coming to God when we need food and drink? In Mark 11, Jesus is with His disciples, and in verse 20, Peter was amazed to see a tree that has been withered because Jesus cursed it. Jesus displayed His power over creation, and shares with Peter how powerful God is when He says (in verses 22-24),
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
People like this verse. It’s comforting to hear that if we pray to God, we can receive what we want. But the problem with our prayers, when we focus too strongly on the notion of getting our wants, is that our prayers are often overly motivated by our own interests and desires. Jesus is our example for everything, including prayer, and we see such a prime example of what He thinks about prayer as his death was looming closely. In Mark 14:36, Jesus spent time praying to His Father, and He said,
“Abba, Father,” He said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
He knew suffering and death was coming and that He’d be separated from the Father for a time, and He didn’t desire to go through that pain. He prayed honestly with the Father with His feelings, but the key of that verse is when Jesus prays “not my will, but what you will.” Jesus prayed with His Father’s interest in mind. When we pray, we can express our personal desires, but should want God’s will above our own.
So to reflect and apply this to your own personal life: is God your genie or your Father? Are you in a relationship with God with the mindset of ‘what can God do for me?’ or focused on how you can best serve, follow, and trust Him because of His intense love for you? Before quickly answering, the best way to honestly evaluate where you’re at will be to inspect your prayer life. What are you praying for? Are your prayers a checklist of things you want God to do, or are your requests in the mix with prayers of thankfulness, praise, worship, and confession?
Don’t get me wrong, God absolutely wants us to bring our needs and requests to Him! 1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 55:22, Philippians 4:6, and other verses share that God wants you to bring your requests, stresses, and challenges to Him. God wants you to pray for an ill family member, to bring peace to a chaotic home, and bring your needs to Him! But remember: God is so much more than just a genie in a bottle - yet, it is so easy for us to treat Him like that, like cats loving only for the food’s sake, not the pure adoration. He loves us so much, blesses us endlessly, and has made great sacrifices for us - He deserves more than just a list of wants. So, inspect your prayer life: there should be plenty of times when you praise Him for how amazing He is. We mess up enough that confession should be routine in prayer. Because of the many blessings we receive, we should be non-stop thankful.