I humbly asked God to remove my shortcomings.
“Ask for what you need!” was a popular piece of advice from counselors and therapists when I first began to work these Twelve Steps.
And doesn’t it sound so easy, tripping off the tongue?
It is, however, the kind of counsel that strikes fear in the heart of some human beings who have grown accustomed to “doing it myself” and “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”
I’ve read that a cynic is a person who doesn’t want to be disappointed any more, and indeed, asking for help invites the possibility that you might be disappointed. Sometimes, you just can’t risk that terrible feeling of the fear of asking or the possibility of being ignored, ridiculed or denied one more time.
Asking another person for help of any kind can evoke all sorts of inner resistance. Some of us would rather die than ask for support, a favor, money or other good, while others freely ask and freely receive.
I take this Step seriously because while there are only eight words in it, every word opens up a revelation about my life experience about my feelings about God, my image of God, getting my needs met and my past history in asking for what I need.
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This past week I encountered a person who gave me her own personal course in miracles. “We have to demand our miracles from God,” she said, and something in me shivered.
Frankly, demanding a miracle from God didn’t quite fit with my image of how I stand in relationship with the Almighty, and for the rest of the day, I recalled other similar messages about how to make prayer work.
We are to go boldly to the throne of God.
We tell him what we need and tell him we aren’t leaving until we get it.
God wants to bless his children, but we have to claim the blessing!
Name it and claim it! It’s your inheritance as a child of the king!
I kept pondering those thoughts, and the still, small Voice in my head and heart kept whispering, “The Father knows what you need before you ask.”
My lifelong practice of praying “Thy will be done” has served me well, and while I used to think that Jesus’ words about asking, seeking and knocking were about getting the results I wanted, I have come to understand that those words are about faithfulness, persistence and patience in seeking God. They simply aren’t about nagging God into giving you what you tell him to give you.
Clearly, my God -image, my temperament and my past history had bumped up against this person’s, and so I wrestled again with what it means to ask God to remove my shortcomings. I just don’t see God as my cosmic bellhop and I don’t see prayer as giving God his to-do list.
First of all, I believe with all of my heart that God wants us to bring our shortcomings and our character defects to him. I believe that we can freely ask God for what we need.
I believe that it is his joy to remove our shortcomings and those impediments to our knowing him more fully, living more healthy and abundant lives and loving him, ourselves and others more freely.
My experience is that God helps us with those things we cannot do ourselves, and sometimes he works with us to help us do together what we need to have done.
I have no problem asking God to help me in my weaknesses, and I have learned and re-learned that it is where I cannot do for myself that God works best. The place of my inadequacies is the very place the adequacy of God moves in to aid me.
But……the truth is that I also have the experiences of asking for what I need and being denied, disappointed or ignored. Periodically, those memories kick in and start yammering such debilitating things as these:
You know you won’t get it. Why are you wasting your time?
You know you don’t deserve it. Look at how many times you’ve failed!
You know it won’t happen. I never has; what’s different this time?
You’ve asked so many times! God must be getting tired that you can’t get it!
And….when that happens, I have to remind myself that this Step doesn’t ask me to ask the people of my past or my present who have let me down or disappointed me. The Step doesn’t ask me to help myself or rely on my own understanding.
It does ask me to risk even when merely the thought of asking evokes the voice in my head that shames me or tells me that I should be able to handle this shortcoming myself.
The Step simply asks me to ask God.
And….when that happens, I have to return to my mental processes of thinking through the difference in my old God-image and the one I have formed through a life-time of revising my God-image so that it conforms with what I know to be true:
God is love.
God’s very nature is about mercy, grace and forgiveness.
God wants my health and wholeness — and the abundant life of love, joy and peace for me.
Through many years of practicing Centering Prayer, I have learned that while it is important for me to take my requests to God, the real power in prayer is listening, watching and waiting for the guidance, the direction and the precise help I need.
We know God in many ways, and one of those is through nature. In his wisdom, God provided night and day. I count on the words of the prophet: His mercies are new every morning.
Maybe God created mornings so that we could see the dawn of a new day and remember that in his mercy, we can keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking, and that that is OK.
What about you?
How hard is it for you to ask a friend for a favor?
When was the last time you risked asking for help when you firmly believed that you should be able to do whatever it was for yourself?
Do you call in favors for persons you have helped?
Do you hesitate to ask someone to do something for you or to give you something because you are afraid of what the cost might be if that person does what you have asked?
What is the one shortcoming right now that stands in the way between you and the abundant life?
How do you get in your own way, sabotaging your own peace of mind?
For what do you need to ask from God today?
Are you willing to state your request to God and leave the details up to him, or do you need to tell him how to do his job?
Is your trust in God bigger than your trust in your own abilities to remove your shortcomings?
Do you feel you deserve to ask God to help you?
May grace abound for you —