“God, if You help me do well in this module, I promise to do my quiet time every day.”
I have a tendency to negotiate or make “deals” with God, especially when I’m caught in desperate situations. Sometimes, my promises can be as mindless as promising never to sleep in again if God helps me to get to my lecture on time.
God has been gracious to me and has often granted what I wished for. And yet, time and again, I don’t keep my part of the deal. I miss my quiet time when I’m tired, and I definitely do snooze the alarm in the morning.
Perhaps you are like me. We’ve been Christians for so long that our words to God are often careless, not thought through, and carry no weight. We use Him as a magic genie and forget about Him when He gives us what we want.
We’ve become so comfortable with God that we do not fear Him enough.
This thought scares me, and it should scare you, too. The Preacher calls us “fools” (v. 1) with the wrong attitude. Instead of offering our foolish words as sacrifice unto God (v. 1), he tells us to “draw near to listen.” To sit quietly without speaking and to simply listen to what He has to tell us.
And when we do speak, God does not just value what we say, but also our attitude of humility in approaching Him (v. 2). As the Preacher tells us, the One we are coming before is not someone we can take lightly—He is the Holy God who sits in the Heavenly places (v. 2), so we shouldn’t be “quick with [our] mouth” or “hasty in [our] heart” (v. 2).
Most of us would be familiar with that nagging feeling of guilt or hypocrisy whenever we fail to fulfil our irreverent, frivolous vows. To spare us the regret, the solution from the Preacher is simple: do not make these vows (v. 5). This idea of “letting our words be few” teaches us to make our words count. If we were to speak 10 words to the Lord instead of 100, surely, we would carefully weigh each one before we speak.
And yet, fearing God doesn’t mean seeing Him as someone who is unapproachable, but understanding who we are in relation to Him. As our Creator, He knows everything we need. We can come to Him honestly and openly, using the words that we have to be genuine about our fears and what we really need, instead of what we want in the moment.
I’ve found that when I come before God to just sit and listen, He often realigns the priorities of my heart, showing me what He wants me to focus on in that season, and my prayers begin to change.
Instead of making empty promises or asking God for a way to escape my desperate situations, I’ve started to pray that I’ll find joy in the midst of suffering (James 1:2), strength to love my unlovable neighbor (Mark 12:31), and grace to be content with what He has provided (Philippians 4:12). Even though I find it tough to pray these things, they’re often exactly what I need to face my circumstances. And when I do pray them, God refreshes me and my worries begin to seem less significant.
—By Constance Goh, Singapore
Questions for reflection
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