The Secret to Getting God to do What You Want

OK, so here’s how I know I still don’t have it right.

I spend a significant portion of my spiritual life trying to figure out how to control God.

After forty-some years of following Jesus, I’ve gotten better at disguising my efforts as attempts to “get closer” to God (He’s never fooled. I’m kind of stupid, though, so I manage to fool myself all the time). But when it comes right down to it, much of that desire to get closer to Him is based on the human notion that the closer I am to Him, the more influence I have over Him and the more likely I am to succeed in getting Him to do what I want Him to do!

He’s pretty determined, though, to get our relationship to a place where I am content with being close to Him for the joy of being close to Him.

I get that. I mean, that’s what I want from the people in my life. I don’t want to think my husband only cozies up to when he’s hungry or feeling romantic. I’d like to believe he loves me for who I am and not for what I do for him. Likewise I would not want my kids to only call or visit when they are in need of cash or consolation. I want them to enjoy just having a close relationship with me. I don’t think I’d even be friends with someone who was only interested in me for what I could do for them.

So, I get it.

But there’s so much that I want and God is all-powerful and everything and I’m so not powerful and there is so little that I can actually control, that the temptation to grow close to God in an effort to control Him and therefore, control my world is pretty compelling stuff.

Sometimes I fake it.

That’s it, Lord. You win. You’re right. I relinquish everything to You. All I want is You and if nothing changes in my world, then that is enough. Then I sing a couple choruses of I Surrender All and sit back and wait.

What am I usually waiting for? Well, honestly, for Him to notice how surrendered I am and think that’s so mature and all, that He decides, finally, to give me everything I’ve been asking for all along.

So, you see my problem.

I idolize control.

I don’t want bad things. I’m not asking God to make my thighs thinner or to smite that woman who said mean things to me or to get my favorite political candidate into office. I want pretty noble stuff like for my children to walk with the Lord, a cure for my husband’s illness, just enough resources to live simply without debt and, OK, it would be nice if my thighs were a little thinner and my husband would stand still long enough for us to have a conversation or two without me repeating every other word. (Someone stop me now!)

One of my all time favorite movies is Out of Africa (1985). Meryl Streep plays a Danish baroness trying to grow coffee in 20th century colonial Africa and she is trying to control the water that flows through her property (along with the people in her world). Early in the movie, she speaks with her assistant who is an African national:

Streep: If you put a dam here to stop the water… then I can make a pond here. – Do you know how…

Assistant: This water must go home to Mombasa.

Streep: It can go home after we make a pond.

Assistant: Msabu, this water lives at Mombasa.

Streep: Come, then. See if you can shore it up.

Throughout the movie, we see her repeated and futile attempts to put up a dam that will withstand the pressure of the water. Her attempts to control what will not be controlled.

But, she grows up in Africa. She learns. And toward the end of the movie, when the dam breaks again, we get this:

Streep: Move away. Let it go. This water lives in Mombasa anyway.

So many of our efforts are put into trying to control what we cannot control. Especially God.

For many of us, love means letting me control you. Sometimes we can convince humans to play that game with us but God doesn’t buy into that one.

I think many of us see the titles of Christian living books and no matter what it actually says, what we read is “The Secret to Getting God to do What I Want.”

Obviously, if you’ve been reading this post, you can see that I don’t have the whole answer to this problem but one thing I do know is that I can’t solve it without God’s help.

So now, I often begin my time with Him by openly admitting – Lord, I’m pretty much showing up here hoping that You’ll do what I want or hoping that you’ll change someone else in my life not me. (I think that admitting you have a problem is the first step.)

I want to want God for Him alone. I want to stop making an idol of control. Showing up with Him is the only way I know to get the cure for that ailment that resides deep in the DNA I inherited from Eve.

I keep trying to shore up the Living Water of Christ – tame the raging river of God so I can make a little pond to water my land. It will be best when I allow Him to flow where He will flow.

Let it go. This water lives in Mombasa anyway. Let it go. Let it flow.

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    The Conversation

  1. Andrea says:

    Sometimes, I, too have trouble leaving control in GOD’s hands!
    Blessings, andrea

    PS: I posted a prayer request from a new bloggy friend on arise 2 write with a link to her blog.

  2. Thanks, Andrea! God bless.

  3. Dorothy P says:

    Lori: You a wonderfully articulate, visionary version of what I would like to be. Why can’t I be truthful with myself and acknowledge what it is that drives me? I want God to do what I want. I want it so, so badly. I pray every night that he will accede to my some of my modest requests. I’m not being selfish, I tell myself, but, when I think about it, I am. Keep posting, Lori. You will never know what an inspiration you are to me.

  4. Thank you, so much, Dorothy! Your comment is a tad ironic since I think your posts are so open and frank. It’s been wonderful getting to know you through the internet. God bless.

  5. Janet ('Phoenix" Russo says:

    Wow.. I feel like the disciples when the Lord told them one would betray Him – and they asked, “Is it I?”
    That’s been my question lately? “It is I?”
    Even.. when it comes to betrayal.. though maybe in the smaller ways in my everyday life.
    The Lord will give me strength in the BIG battles and we walk away dancing together and rejoicing..
    Then, I will realize the next day I stumbled over some small thing in compromise. Never-the-less it is compromise.
    I hang my head and say… “What is in this heart Lord?”
    Many times I think I see myself and then He pulls back what the heart hides and unearth’s what’s still broken or sinful.
    Tonight as I read your article I prayed..”All I want to want is YOU.”
    God grant me that prayer.

  6. Grace,Phoenix, none of us would survive without grace. More and more my prayer is “have mercy on me, O Lord.” Thanks for dropping by and sharing your reaction. Very powerful. Remember that there is, therefore now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! Hallelujah!

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  8. Great stuff…and I recognize your name now! Is this YOUR blog? How did I miss it all this time? I’ve missed out on so much!