Often when we pray, we pray for relief. We pray for financial relief, emotional relief and physical relief. Most of us have never prayed for pain, at least not directly, but pain is often a result of our prayer life.
Any time you want to grow spiritually you can be sure that pain will play a part. If I were to ask you in what seasons of life do you grow the most spiritually, many of you would talk about a difficult circumstance you went through.
Maybe it was the sickness of a loved one where you had to learn to trust God. Maybe it was loosing a job, where again, you had to learn to trust God for provision. In all of my biggest leaps of spiritual growth, pain played a big part.
The question isn’t, “Will there be pain?” The question is, which kind of pain will you choose? Sometimes I grow because I suffer the consequence of my own actions. This is self-inflected pain that God uses to grow me. Other times, the pain is found when I am following God’s commands, and the situation gets really difficult.
In the Old Testament, Elijah experiences good growth through pain. He stands before Ahab and proclaims that it will not rain until he decides that it is time. Elijah got to be the mouth of God before an evil and powerful man. He got the chance to really make a difference and to stand on the greatest stage where he spoke boldly for God.
Then God leads him to a stream where ravens bring him his food, and he drinks from the water. However, over time the stream begins to go dry. Why? Because that is exactly what Elijah prayed for. Pretty soon Elijah gets thirsty, and the water is all gone. His pain was a direct result of his prayer life.
I would argue that God was using that time to prepare Elijah for what comes next. It’s hard to see when you are in the midst of a struggle, but sometimes that pain is a blessing, especially if it is the result of obedience.
Too many times we pray for God to ease the pain of our own mistakes. If pain is inevitable, then it would be best to experience the growth that comes from obedience.
So this is the choice we as Christians have to make. What kind of pain do you want? Do you want the pain of consequences or the pain of obeying your calling? When we follow the example of Elijah, or even Jesus himself who chose the pain of the cross, God uses that obedience in mighty ways.
This week, I ask that you pray a dangerous prayer. Pray for pain, but pray for the pain that comes from trusting God. If we are to mature, we must trust, and trust is always scary. But I would rather suffer from obedience than have to suffer one more time for the same old mistakes of my past.