“I can’t pray about my problems. I was taught that it is selfish to pray for myself.”
I understood my friend when she told me this. I was also taught that asking anything for yourself was self-centered and we need to be other-centered. But at the heart of the message we were taught is the fear of not having enough to go around. Self-sacrifice can also be self-centered in a way, as bizarre as that sounds, because it is based on a fear that we will have to cover for God’s short-comings.
God is not on a budget.
While praying for ourselves and our needs can be a sign of self-focus, I am reminded of the airline stewardess’ lecture about affixing your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else. If our own love tanks are running on empty, if we don’t know how much God loves us and who we are in him, we tend to either ignore or sacrifice ourselves to meet other people’s needs, and eventually we will run out, burn out, and die out.
The problem is that we view prayer as a one-way conversation asking for things. I have learned prayer is seeking a closer relationship with the Lover of my soul. We give out of the abundance of his love. As one of my friends said “Invest heavily in worshipping God and soaking up his love, then give the interest and not the capital and you won’t run dry.” When I find myself feeling resentful of other people’s neediness and their expectations of me it is usually because I am running on empty. I need, like Jesus did, to go away and spend more time with the Lord.
As I look at the immensity of the sky I am reminded of the immensity of his love. How much sky do you need? How much love do you need? Ask. He’s got more for you than you ever imagined or dared to think. Then give freely what you have freely received. There’s more where that came from.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20, 21)