Is God Our Genie In A Bottle?
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We have all laughed over jokes about the genie in the bottle that grants three wishes. As an example, maybe you have heard about the three men that were stranded on a desert island, when a bottle washed up on the shore? When they uncorked the bottle, a genie appeared and offered three wishes. Wait….before I finish this joke, let me ask you a very serious question: Have you ever prayed to God as if He were the genie in a bottle that was there simply to grant your every wish? How do you react when your wish doesn’t come true? Read more…
According to Wikipedia, the three wishes joke is a form of joke in which the central character is given three wishes by a supernatural being and fails to make the best use of them. Common scenarios include releasing a genie from confinement, perhaps by finding an old oil lamp and rubbing it. Usually things go well for the first two wishes; however, the third wish is either misinterpreted or intentionally granted in an awkwardly literal fashion. The final wish cannot be reversed, and this results in the punchline of the joke.
Let’s go back to the three men I started with who were stranded on the desert island. Each man was granted one wish. The first wished to be taken to Paris. The genie snapped his fingers, and the man suddenly found himself standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. The second man wished that he were in Hollywood, and with a snap of the genie’s finger, he found himself on a Tinsel Town movie set. The third man, now alone on the island, looks around and says, “I wish my friends were back.” Of course, much to the dismay of the first two men, they are all three suddenly back on the island again.
The punch line makes us laugh, but it also reminds us that things don’t always turn out the way we want them. Often, when we pray, God does not change the things that we ask Him to change. When our prayers “seem” to go unanswered, how does that make us feel about God? Do we sometimes grow angry at or at least disappointed in His response? Perhaps if things don’t turn out our way, we even begin to doubt God’s love for us.
We must never forget that God’s ways are above our ways. God knows what’s best for us, even when we don’t. Too often we think we know best. In our hearts we know we don’t. We must place our trust and confidence in God. This point was popularized in a song by country singer Garth Brooks. The following lyrics were contained in his song, Unanswered Prayers.
“Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’, to the man upstairs
And just because he doesn’t answer, doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers”
We know that prayer comes in many forms. There is silent/contemplative prayer, vocal prayer, sung prayer, from the heart prayers, memorized/standardized prayers, sacramental prayers, praying in tongues, prayers of petition, and more. The Bible even tells us that when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit groans in prayer on our behalf.
The fact is, we all pray differently. Specific forms of prayer seem to fit better in different circumstances. While there might not be one right way to pray that suits everyone every time, it is a worthwhile exercise nonetheless, to periodically review our prayer regimen.
I believe that it is advisable from time to time to examine our attitude towards prayer, our expectations regarding the outcome of our prayers and finally the forms and methods of our prayers. I also believe that Jesus taught us the ideal way to pray when He instructed us in the Lord’s Prayer.
A commonly known mnemonic used to remember the key elements of prayer is this: P.R.A.Y. = Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield.
In the Lord’s Prayer we: Give praise with the words: Hallowed be thy Name. We repent with the words: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. We ask by using these words: Give us this day our daily bread; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Finally we yield to God with these words: Thy kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
I will close today by asking you to listen to the words of a song whose lyrics spoke to my heart. It caused me to reflect on the expectations for my prayers. The song is EVEN IF by the group MercyMe. I found reflecting on these words to be powerful, I hope you do too. Click here to listen.
“I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone”
Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for those times that I have been demanding in my prayers, treating you more like a genie in a bottle rather than the Almighty God who created all that is. Guide me in my prayer life Lord, so that I can hear you in my life and trust in your decisions for me. Amen
As always, I love to read your comments below as well as hear from you personally by clicking here.
MS CHALLENGE WALK UPDATE
I want to thank each and everyone of you who prayed for or offered financial support for our 50 mile walk. My wife walked all 50 miles and much to our surprise I was able to walk 40 of the 50 miles. There is no doubt in my mind that prayers helped that to happen. The first day my legs didn’t fully cooperate and I only made 12 of 22 miles, but Saturday I made all 18 miles and Sunday all 10 miles. Most importantly we raised over $10,000 to fund MS research. Thanks again.
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This is definitely one of your best letters. “Unanswered Prayers” is one of my husband’s and my favorite songs. May God bless you for all that you do to bring His word to us.
I have prayed this for some time, thought I would share.
Heavenly Father, I trust you know the path for me to follow, please see that I know it, too. Help me to follow it everyday and when it is time for me to transition to Your heavenly realm, may I do so with grace and ease. When we are reunited, may You be pleased Thy will was done. Amen
What a beautiful prayer. Thank you for sharing it.
I am heading back to the hospital tomorrow for more CT scans and MRI scan. I find prayer the best way to tolerate these procedures with my eyes closed and my mind focused on God. Using the Praise-Repent-Ask-Yield will keep my mind on a steady track and the healing will have already begun. Thanks Brian and blessings to you for your faithfulness of 4th Day Letters during your illness.
May God’s healing hands be upon you and may He keep you and those who provide for your care in his arms.
Thanks for posting.
Feeling musical today I see Brian… 🙂
I’ve turned to a prayer in which I lift up my prayers and then ask God to answer them at his will, and to help me understand the answers I may not have expected.
Thank you for sharing this method of praying with us.
I do love that song! It always seems to come on when I need to hear it. Thanks for putting the lyrics here.
I also feel some of us treat God like a vending machine and get angry when our selections aren’t delivered. We mugh think that we deserve our choice of outcomes since we put something into it – like prayer, alms or good works – as if God’s grace was a result of a “this-for-that” transaction. How many of us get deflated when we don’t get the answer we want? How many get angry and even shout at God? How many walk away and don’t return to prayer like they won’t return to vending machine that didn’t deliver a snack?
Thank you for your ministry!
Great blog today Brian. Such an important topic, and music is such a powerful form of prayer. I struggled for so long with the Lord’s Prayer, saying “Thy will be Done.” I would much prefer to say “My Will be Done.” As I have reflected on that struggle for a long time, I am beginning to realize that God’s will is much less about whether I experience happiness or sadness, but rather His will is to walk with me in both joy and sadness and to hold me up when I most need it. I just need to be open enough to let Him do that. Thanks for your ministry.