God-dependence. Our deepest need.
We think we can do so many things on our own. In fact, we generally feel confident that we know how to do life; we can handle things. When life begins to unravel, when things don't go as planned, when our best intentions fall apart, we try harder. We blame others; we blame ourselves; we may even blame God. We try to figure things out on our own and make things happen. We reason; we may seek advice from others; but primarily we just keep trying to do the best we can. We try harder to love those around us. We spend more time weighing our options in order to make good decisions. We work harder at reforming ourselves. But what we really need is prayer.
We do this all the time in relationships. We think we can love our spouse—naturally. But if they don't meet our needs as we would like, or if they get upset because we are not meeting their needs as they would like, all the love feelings we had for them can drain away just like someone pulled the plug in the bathtub. Quick! Quick! Put the plug back in before it all drains out! Whew! There's still some left . . . until the next time or the next or the next.
We think we can love our children—naturally. But as they grow up and their own independent streaks assert themselves, suddenly love for them becomes rather difficult. Each disobedience, every defiance of our authority generates anger rather than love; and we discover that love for them only comes naturally if they do what we want them to do. This only becomes more pronounced as they age. Oh, we love them still in our minds and hearts, but what we express is often quite different!
Love for our friends seems to come a little easier over the long haul, but only for one reason: they are not constantly in our way, getting under foot and thwarting our own agendas. When we see them on occasion, they generally affirm us. We don't have to deal with them day in and day out. They are not "in our face" with their idiosyncrasies and bad habits and self-centeredness. Our ability to love others is predicated on their willingness or acquiescence to do our will and desires.
When our love falls short in any given relationship, we generally first turn to blaming the other person. Then we beat ourselves up a bit before pulling ourselves up and resolving with great determination to try harder. Surely that will fix things. We fail to apprehend Jesus' words, "Apart from Me, you can to nothing." It's not greater effort that's needed, but rather a recognition of our helplessness. We need to spend more time in prayer, seeking the infilling love of God. God's love alone, which is always pure and always right, can instruct us, teaching us how to love in right ways, enabling us to respond correctly to any given person in any given situation, instead of responding out of our selfishly-driven, natural reactions.
Decision-making is another area of life we think we can handle on our own. We weigh the pros and cons, we use our natural logical reasoning, and Voila! The right answer appears. But the right decision isn't always apparent or that easy. How can we possibly know which direction we should go in life? We can't see the future. We don't know how any given decision will turn out or how it will affect the people around us and other decisions we'll need to make down the road. We just aren't that smart. No amount of logical reasoning can help us to see beyond the present moment to all the future ramifications.
We can't even ascertain with complete clarity simple material decisions such as which car to buy. How could we possibly know which one will serve us better and have less mechanical issues? We can't! If we are not wise enough to know what's best on material things, how can we think we could make good decisions about life direction and relationships? Our severe limitations require a transcendent God, One who sees the end from the beginning. We need to spend time in prayer.
The Bible talks a lot about decision-making and our inability to see around the next bend or to orchestrate outcomes. "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." (Proverbs 16:9) "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.' But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil." (James 4:13-16)
Evil?? Yes, evil. Every time we think we can handle life on our own, we are acting godless (God-less). This is presumption. This is a lie. This is arrogance. All those things are evil. What is the antidote? Prayer. When we pray, we acknowledge our need for God. Prayer is recognizing our dependence on God rather than depending on ourselves and feigning independence.
A third area we constantly try to handle on our own revolves around our attempts to reform ourselves. For the most part, we are aware of our own shortcomings; we continually feel our inadequacies. Yet, conversely, we also have this false sense of competency: we think we can make ourselves better. We ought to be able to do this! But we fail. We generally try to blame others first, which only leads to a greater sense of our own failures. So we pick ourselves up and try again. Eventually we fail again, only to try harder—again and again.
Sometimes we have a measure of success, which only fuels our imagination that our own efforts will at last conquer all our insufficiencies. Paul recognized this cycle in himself and finally cries out at the end of Romans 7, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" There is only one answer, one person mighty enough to do such a thing: Jesus Christ. To Him we must go—in continual, moment-by-moment prayer. "Apart from Me, you can do nothing."
Prayer communion with God is how we are supposed to live: "In Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) Oh, that we—oh, that I—might come to comprehend our great need for God. Even to say "our great need for God" seems to put Him on the outside of our lives, as if we need Him as an attachment. Our need for Him is far more than that. We must come to see our need for Him as our breathing tube, our feeding tube, our every-second lifeline. "Apart from Me, you can do nothing." Pray for enlightened realization of this truth in every area of life: in every relationship, in every decision, in every inner transformation. Our deepest need is God-dependence. Pray.