If you’ve ever felt frustrated with silence from God, I know of at least one prayer that he always answers. And it’s one of the most dangerous questions to ask God.
If you’re courageous (and just a little crazy), try praying: “What more do I need to become like Christ?”
You better be prepared for the answer.
When the rich man asked Jesus something similar (how to “inherit eternal life”), Jesus gave him an easy three-step plan for success (Mark 10:17-22).
1. Liquidate everything you own.
2. Donate your assets to the poor.
3. Leave your life behind and follow me.
Is it really any wonder that “the man’s face fell” and “he went away sad” (Mark 10:22)?
It may sound like a humble prayer, but I actually tend to pray this only when I’m feeling confident in my spiritual growth. (Or “proud,” in biblical terms, and we know what happens to the proud.) I’ve made some recent victory over sin or breakthrough in my relationship with God, I tell myself. Or maybe I’ve plateaued for a little while, just coasting along with the wind at my back. Life is easy, and I think I’m doing fairly well.
So I naively fling this almost rhetorical question into the cosmos, challenging the Great Infinity to reveal what faults I have yet to conquer. I honestly have no clear conception of what I might improve on next. I’ve made it, my subconscious whispers. My work is done. With this thought floating through my mind, I drift to sleep already dreaming a faint glow of sainthood rests about my head.
Soon afterwards, God proceeds to “bring the hammer down.” You may picture Thor in all his demi-god fury, claiming vengeance on the unworthy, or Jesus comparing Pharisees to vipers and unmarked graves. With a few swift strokes, he smashes my idealistic self-image and obliterates my pride to dust. Remind you of a certain gold calf?
The decimation often comes through a loved one who bluntly informs me that my act is not together and, in fact, I have quite a lot of work left to do. It’s amazing how much this news comes as a shock—mentally, spiritually, even physically. The clouded scales flake off my eyes.
While my self-esteem drops to zero, my gratefulness to God skyrockets. I turn to him again and admit I can’t pull myself together. He is the only one with the strength and mastery to complete me. So I hold out my hands and ask that he would pour his refining Spirit over me again, filling me up until nothing else can be contained in the same jar.
“Make me pure,” I cry.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
And he answers that prayer too.