Our reading in Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 really hits home with me and immediately reminded me of a specific time in my life. Right after Becky and I got married we moved to Ft. Worth Texas for me to go to grad school. In Texas a friend of mine and I started a lawn care business that grew into a fairly successful company within just a few years. I loved the work, and the people, but along the way I had a growing sense that we should be doing something more directly in ministry. This feeling grew to a point where I decided that something needed to be done about it, so I decided to go away for a time of fasting and prayer. Now prayer and fasting are very good things to do, but I had an attitude that proved to be a serious hindrance. I told Becky and a few close friends that I was going away for an extended time of fasting and prayer to “do business with God” - meaning I intended to get Him to give me clear direction about the next chapter in my life, specifically my work. (If you are detecting some impatience and arrogance in this you are right on target!)
Well, my attitude and I, packed up, drove out of town, and checked into a motel. I got out my Bible and before I could even start praying, a very clear message came to my mind, and I know it was God’s Spirit saying, “Don’t ask Me for anything”. My immediate thought was, “this can’t be right!” but as I reflected, it made sense. In my impatience and arrogance, I had misplaced my position as God’s child, and was demanding that He come through for me on my terms. Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 says, “As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God. 2 Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few.” (NLT)
Prayer is a great privilege and responsibility (as is fasting) but it should never be used as a way to demand anything from God. Our goal should be to express devotion first, and then make requests, not demands.
When I came back from the time away, it was humbling to tell Becky and my friends that the “business I did with God” was to remember that He is the boss!