California Farmer 240:2 (Jan. 19, 1974)
On his last voyage to America, Columbus fell seriously ill at a time of great danger and possible mutiny. Greatly exhausted, and down with a high fever, he was not only weak in body but in spirit also.
In his Journal, he wrote of himself, “Thou criest for help, with doubt in thy heart. Ask thyself who has afflicted thee so grievously and so often: God or the world? The privileges and covenants which God giveth are not taken back by Him. Nor does He say to them that have served Him that He meant it otherwise, or that it should be taken in another sense; nor does He inflict torments to show His power. Whatever He promises He fulfils with increase; for such are His ways.”
Columbus, a greater man by far than most men realize, was right. His troubles came from men, not from God, and one of those men was Columbus himself. Some of his most serious problems were a product of his own errors. Columbus realized this in part and wrote, “Turn thyself to Him, and acknowledge thy sins. His mercy is infinite.”
At first, in his sin and illness, Columbus had asked God to change. As he prayed, he came to realize that instead it was he who must change, not God, and men who must be transformed, not God’s purposes and ways.
Perhaps Columbus’ problem is ours also. We are distressed at the way things are, and at God’s government of the universe. We may not be altogether honest about it, but in much of our praying, we are asking God to change so that we can remain as we are, to have our way in our hopes and plans.
It too seldom occurs to us that it is not God who needs an overhauling and remaking but we ourselves. The point of too much of our praying is that we want things and God to change to please us, not we ourselves changed to please God.
David prayed, in the crisis of his life, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10). Will it take a similar horror and grief to make us pray the same way, and mean it?
We need changing continually, but just as continuously we want God to change, not us. But remember, when you pray, that you are required to please God by believing in Him and by an active obedience to Him. Moreover, we should always remember that God’s greatest gift to us is not in things but in His grace as manifested in Jesus Christ.
Among other things, prayer emphatically means coming to God to be changed by Him, and to know wherein we need changing. Confession is a part of prayer for this reason. It reminds us that we need God’s transforming grace and power.
What are you praying about?