The Hawks’ season ended well over a month ago, but nearly every night, my five-year-old continues to earnestly pray:
“And please, God, let the Hawks team win all their baseball games….”
Who hasn’t prayed a prayer like that? We all like to WIN, but I wonder how many people supporting the opposing teams also pray for the same thing!
Whose prayer is right? Is it OK to pray for a winning streak?
As I listened to his innocent prayer the other night, I considered some of the things I’ve prayed for in recent weeks – success in my work, my husband’s success at his job, my children’s success in school or in sports. It caused me pause.
Is praying for this kind of success any different?
It took me directly to the heart of the matter: How do I define success?
For example, let’s take my children. When I pray for my children to experience success at school, how do I measure that? Am I measuring it by what the world perceives as success — straight A’s, top-notch sports performance, etc.? Or am I leaving that open to God’s interpretation which may include relationship building, character building, encouragement, or something else?
“Success” when viewed through God’s lens often doesn’t look the way we think it should. Consider John the Baptist. He dedicated his entire life to pointing people to Jesus, the Messiah. Yet, at the end of his ministry, he finds himself in prison, seemingly forgotten.
Is this what success looks like?
I can only imagine how differently John thought this story might play out – perhaps with the two of them (John and Jesus) ministering together, or at the very least perhaps he might serve in an elevated position in the Messiah’s earthly kingdom.
Instead, John finds himself in chains, wondering, frustrated, and praying. I wonder how many times he asked God to set him free. How many times did he ask for a miracle? And leading up to this point, I wonder, how many time had he prayed for success in his ministry?
In the absence of anything that made sense, John began to wonder and sent this message to Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3) If John was bold enough to question Jesus identity, he must have also questioned his own.
Jesus affirmed John to the crowd saying, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…” (Matthew 11:11)
Success looks different with a God-perspective.
So, when I go back to my original question, is it wrong to pray for success, the answer I return with is “no,” but there is a “catch.” Our perspective must constantly yield to God’s definition of success.
The Hawks finished their season last month with 40 “wins” and 82 loses. That’s a losing record in most people’s book. But in God’s economy, success is not measured by wins or losses on the baseball field, the school yard, in the classroom, or the office. It’s not measured by dollars in the bank, or if you’d look great on the cover of Shape magazine. It’s measured by obedience to His call.
Father, you’ve humbled me yet again as I struggle to live in this world…but not of it. Help me today to measure my successes with the measuring stick of obedience. I want to be obedient to your call today, moment by moment, even when the odds are stacked against me. And, when I appear to be losing by the world’s standards, please give me the strength not to give up, and help me to look for opportunities to minister to others despite those circumstances. Amen.
Iron it out:
Have you ever gotten caught up in the success rat race as defined by the world? How do you pull yourself out of it long enough to gain a right perspective? I hope you’ll share your insights to encourage someone else who, like John the Baptist, may be feeling confined, trapped and confused.