I don’t know about you, but I often go to God in prayer. I know that when we go to God in prayer, we invite God to act. Again, I don’t know about you, but I know my weak tendencies in prayer. My tendency is to ask God for a long list of things for myself and for others that I know. I almost treat God like an errand-boy, asking God to get me stuff like it is a grocery list. Then, I find myself trying to ask the right way with the right words so that God will see things my way and answer my prayer according to my will. But we all know that is not the way to ask.
In those days Israel had no king. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking a place of their own where they might settle, because they had not yet come into an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. So the Danites sent five of their leading men from Zorah and Eshtaol to spy out the land and explore it. These men represented all the Danites. They told them, "Go, explore the land." So they entered the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah, where they spent the night. When they were near Micah's house, they recognized the voice of the young Levite; so they turned in there and asked him, "Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? Why are you here?" He told them what Micah had done for him, and said, "He has hired me and I am his priest." Then they said to him, "Please inquire of God to learn whether our journey will be successful." (Judges 18:1-5 NIV)
The tribe of Dan certainly didn’t know how to ask, either. They go to a Levite who is acting like a priest, even though he is not legitimately one. His services are for hire, which a priest should never do. He performs his “priestly duties” in someone’s house, even though they should be done at the Tabernacle. Not only that, he worships in front a bunch of idols of false gods along with a silver idol of the One True God. This guy certainly doesn’t know how to approach God. And, if he does, he is boldly rebelling. He certainly won’t know what the LORD thinks about this thing, yet he answers.
The priest answered them, "Go in peace. Your journey has the LORD's approval." (Judges 18:6 NIV)
We can receive answers to our prayers, but we do not need to go to God through another human being any more. Jesus provides the way into the presence of God now. We can go directly to God to ask. We are even encouraged to do so.
You do not have because you do not ask God. (James 4:2 NIV)
When we ask God, though, we often find ourselves frustrated at God’s lack of interest in answering our prayers. James tells us why that might be.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:3-4 NIV)
The false priest and the tribe of Dan found themselves acting as friends of the world and enemies of God. We can do the same. When we pray, we try to increase our status or standing in this world. We want more stuff, better health, a longer life, more “love,” and so on. We miss the point. God wants to provide for our needs, yes. But “need” is a strong word.
"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you--you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:24-33 NIV)
When Jesus taught us to ask in prayer, he taught us to ask for what we need.
Give us today our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11 NIV)
How about you? Do you go to God in prayer? When you do, how do you ask? For what do you ask? Is it for what you (and others) need? Is it for more? Do you ask?