A pentecostal minister I know told me this week that he had stopped his congregation in the middle of a hymn because they were singing words he knew they didn't mean. He had tried to set up a Saturday morning prayer meeting and the people had not responded. Yet on Sunday they were singing, "Here I Am, Wholly Available."
Why Aren't We Available?
Why do we do this? Why do we sing songs with words we don't mean? Perhaps we're not thinking about the words but we like the tune. Maybe we are being carried along by emotion - we really do mean the words at that moment, but get us outside of church and the enthusiasm fades. Sometimes, it's that our fear of man is greater than our fear of God and we're more concerned about what people around us will think if we don't sing, than what God thinks about the difference between what we say and what's in our hearts.
But to me, the more interesting question is, "why are we not wholly available to God?" I think the answer to that has to be that we don't know Him well enough to fully trust Him. We're afraid that if we do make ourselves wholly available He will ask us to do things we don't want to do. I've heard people express the fear that the Lord might call them to the mission field in a remote and underdeveloped part of the world. There are all sorts of fears - fear of being called to open-air preaching, fear of not being permitted to marry, fear of being told to give everything away and live in poverty. We all have fears and the devil plays on these to try to make us think that the Lord will tell us to do things that will be uncomfortable or embarrassing. This can be very effective at limiting our prayer lives because we become afraid of listening to God for fear of what He might say.
In Ps:37:4 David says, "take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires" (NLT). This is a two-edged promise. On first reading it seems to be a simple counter to the fear that God will ask us to do things we don't want to do. It appears to be saying that if we delight in the Lord we will receive the things we really want. We just have to work out how to take delight in the Lord and then we'll have the key to answered prayer. But there is much more to this verse because there is a dynamic we miss as we rush towards the words "heart's desire" and start thinking about all the things we'd really like to have.
David says, "take delight in the Lord." We take delight in the Lord by spending time with Him, reading His word, praying and worshipping. As we do this we are changed, transformed, to become more like Jesus. Part of that transformation occurs within the desires we have in our hearts. Things which once seemed important to us slip away into the shadows as our priorities change and we fall in love with Jesus. The old desires fade and we find that God himself is planting new desires in our hearts. He literally gives us our heart's desires. Where we were once enthralled by sin, we want holiness; the obsession with material wealth gives way to a desire to build up a storehouse of treasure in heaven; boredom with church is replaced with a desire to spend time with our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
There is no need for fear of what God will ask us to do because, if we are delighting in Him, He works to transform our desires to conform with His will. That is not to say that it will always be easy to do what God wants, but when He asks something challenging of us and we look within ourselves for our response, we will always find there is a seed of desire within our hearts to be obedient to Him that will enable us to do whatever he asks.
Prayer College Assignment
God seems almost to take it as a personal challenge when we say, "I will never ...". Most Christians with some experience of walking with the Lord will find themselves doing and even enjoying, things they once said they would never do. Let's make it our goal to so delight in the Lord that we have no fear of what He might ask of us. Then we will be able to say, "here I am, wholly available."