Our family was an early adopter of Amazon’s Echo. These smart devices are mind-blowing in all the things you can get them to do! If you want to play music you just say, “Alexa, play music from my library.” If you want information, you can say “Alexa, what is the weather like outside today?” If you have some smart bulbs or plugs you can say, “Alexa, turn on the living room lights.” You can even ask it, “What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?” and get the right answer! Privacy controversy aside, the list of things you can tell it to do keeps getting more and more extensive.
I didn’t realize how accustomed my family had become to utilizing Alexa until recently when one of my sons got ready to pray before bed and began his prayer with, “Dear Alexa…. oops! I mean, Dear God…” We then laughed as he was very self-conscious about the fact that had just confused God with Alexa.
Very Far Off?
The more I reflected upon him starting his prayer with “Dear Alexa” instead of “Dear God,” the more I didn’t think my son was totally off base in the way we sometimes pray. I wonder, how much of our prayer would change if we exchanged God’s name with our smart devices? Our wake-up word is, “Dear God…” and our hang up words are, “In Jesus name, Amen.” “Siri, get me that promotion!” “OK Google, make my kids obey me!” “Alexa, take this pain away!” “Fix my spouse!” “Help me stop sinning!” “Heal my loved one!”
Now to be sure, we know who we’re talking to so we dress it up with nice words like, “Please” and “If it be your will,” but at the end of the day, we are still treating God like Alexa. We are thankful He is always there to listen when we call Him to do what we want. We recite our list and expect Him to carry out our requests. Once He has accomplished His purpose for being summoned, He is shelved in the background until He is needed again. When our requests are delayed or go unanswered, we wonder if God wasn’t listening, doesn’t care, or if it was something we really cared about we ask, “Is He even there?”
God Has a Different Relationship in Mind
In John 6, after miraculously feeding 5,000 men from only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, the crowds were amazed at what Jesus could do for them! The next day they followed Him around the Sea of Galilee and rather than receiving another miraculous meal, they faced a rebuke, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
In other words, they weren’t seeking Jesus because the bread and fish revealed Him as the object of their desire, but because their bellies were full and they found Jesus useful. Jesus was little more than a means to a self-centered end.
What follows in John 6 is a very interesting dialogue between Jesus and these people who approached Jesus for more bread. They refer back to the children of Israel eating manna in the wilderness and ask Jesus if He would do something similar for them. Jesus’ answer is astounding! He tells them that God would provide them a bread that would give them eternal life. Their reply? “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Yet they did not anticipate Jesus’ response. “I am the Bread of Life.”
Jesus goes on to describe that in order to have this living Bread they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood. The crowd, who was hoping for someone to get rid of the Romans and grant their every wish, left unimpressed.
Jesus, in essence, was telling them, “I’m right here! Those other things were meant to point to me! I am the one your heart craves! Eat me! Drink me! I’m here! I am better than anything else that your heart could desire!” Their response to Jesus was essentially the same as their ancestors gave to the God who had freed them from the Egyptians and had graciously given them manna: “You? All we get is you?! We just want you to feed our bellies! Heal our sickness! Give us our land of milk and honey! If all we get is to have you as our God and for us to be your people, we’re not interested! We want the gift, not the Giver!”
Do You Want Something from God or Do You Want God?
How absurd would it be to work hard to honestly get to know Alexa or have a personal relationship with your Echo! It’s a device hooked up to the internet, not a person! We would take little comfort from our smart device if we said, “Alexa, I don’t understand why life is so hard,” and it responded, “It’s OK. I’m here. I’m enough for you.” If those same words feel equally hollow when it’s Jesus, it might be an indication that you have been treating Him as a smart device and not as the dearest of friends.
He is the God of the Universe, the King of Kings, who loved us enough to redeem us from our sin with His own blood. He’s not messing around. He has no desire to simply be our personal assistant or to grant wishes. He saves us because knowing Him and delighting in His presence is the greatest act of love He could ever give! In the end, the greatest answer to our prayers is not merely something from God, but God Himself! Only getting God is not a disappointment, it is the greatest treasure of all!
While God is a good Father who delights in giving good gifts, and while He longs to hear our petitions, knowing Him is so much more than that! When we long to know Him and experience the life that He has given to us to experience, it changes our perspective about everything! Rather than focusing on “give me this” or, “give me that,” the prayer becomes, “Let me experience the joy of knowing you! Allow every experience you bring to point to you and cause me to praise the One who gives good gifts. Help me to not use you but to long for you as better than any other gift that you could give! Jesus, you are better!”
This blog was originally posted by Biblical Counseling of Arizona, view the original post here.