Genie in a Bottle

“We forget that God is not a genie but a person who wants to shape us in the image of his Son as much as he wants to answer our prayers.”

“At the center of self-will is me, carving a world in my image. At the center of prayer is God, carving me in his Son’s image.”

Who is carving me? Is it me? Or is it God?

Currently, I’m reading a book by Paul Miller called A Praying Life. Recently I’ve read through two other books on prayer. All three of these books seem to take different facets of prayer and run with them. This one is, so far, different though. The other books were very good books, and they gave some really truthful insight on real struggles I have with prayer. In this one though, the author comes to life. I see him interacting with his family. He gives life examples and successes of fervent prayer.

The two quotes from the book that I included above are ones that struck me yesterday while reading. They both are related, but were in completely different sections in the book. I thought it interesting that I felt a connection with both of these statements. Usually this means I should investigate further. So here I am.

The question begs, “Why does God keep bringing me back to these truths about self-will and image?” That question is easily answered. I know why. And you probably have a hunch too. The truth be told: I struggle with suppressing the will to elevate myself higher than I ought. It’s an ongoing theme in my life.

I have, for the last six months, been much more consistent in my prayers to God. I have begun prayer each morning on the way to work with some sort of phrase or song that gives God credit where credit is due (everywhere). Then I move on to places where I’ve really botched it up. After I’ve exhausted that list (ha ha!) I begin thinking of things I’ve seen God do and where I’ve seen God answer my prayers. By the time I get around to actual requests, I am at work. No time for requesting!

This process, although missing a crucial faith step in asking God for big things, has made it a habit in my life to think of God differently than a genie in a bottle. It has forced me to think first of how God is currently working around me. Instead of having an agenda, I think of the great things God is letting me in on. I really like that. I feel like God is shaping me during those times.

On the other hand, God wants to answer my prayers too. I can’t let this process of talking with God create in me a super spiritual attitude, like, “I am so holy, I just pray thanking God for his awesomeness, and I don’t ask him for anything!” This holy attitude is not exuding humility, instead the aroma is pride: “I can do it myself, and I don’t need to ask God for anything.” God wants us to be weak in our prayers. He doesn’t want us to be self-proclaimed weaklings. It’s gotta be authentic. Self-proclaimed humility is equal to religious piety. And who wants that? Ick.

This is what we call self-will. The “I can do all things through ME who apparently strengthens me. How wrong is that mindset? Very. I begin to carve a world in my image. Me. Me. Me. I can do it!

I am not sure what gets into me, but my image is not really even something to be desired most of the time. I need to look a lot less like myself and much more like Christ. In order to get there, I need to take prayer and all aspects of it much more seriously. That’s where change happens. Real image change. Yes, community can be good. Books on prayer can be good. But God is really the one who is going to shape and carve me into the image of true, genuine holiness.

2 thoughts on “Genie in a Bottle

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