A Demand or a Desire? How to Recognize the Difference

My prayer list is really long. No seriously—it’s really long. That doesn’t make me pious or more spiritual than others; it simply means that when someone posts a “Please pray for my mom; she’s having surgery tomorrow” on Facebook, and I enter my comment, “Praying in Indiana,”  that I really am praying and going to continue to pray about it. It means that when a friend calls and asks me to pray about something, I will. It means that when I say, “How can I pray for you this week?” I truly want to know because I truly plan to say your name and your request to the Lord when I speak to Him in prayer each day.

It’s not because of who I am, but it’s because I believe in the amazing power of the Great I AM!

So as I read John chapter 15 today (in my ongoing daily reading of John as I prepare for Easter), I was once again struck by the simplicity and yet the complexity of two statements, one in verse 7 and the other in verse 16:

“If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7, NASB)

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.” (John 15:16, NASB)

While there are specific “if” and “so that” elements of these promises, which I must, by His power, fulfill, the bottom line is that all that He is and all that He has are available if I but ask. It’s what He stated, and I must take Him at His word.

In the fall of 1999, I was working at a small Christian college in Northern Wisconsin, and Dr. Dave Doran (currently pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church in Allen Park, MI) came to the campus to teach a week-long course and to speak in the daily chapel services. I was greatly struggling with the seeming “emptiness” left by my unfulfilled plans and wishes, and I asked if I could meet with him for some counseling. (He and his dear wife are long-time friends.)

I’m sure it was odd for him when I started our meeting with “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” We were the same age (38 at that time), and he already had an amazing wife, four awesome sons, and a well-established ministry in the Detroit area. I was a constantly fluctuating single with no prospects for “permanent male companionship” up there in the snowy woods!

As a good counselor would, he asked what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be. I was honest (which, by the way, is the only way to be when receiving counsel; after all, they’re counseling you, not the you that you wish you were), and the conversation ended up eventually pausing briefly on my continuing desire to be married to a man who loved God and to be a companion to that man to the glory of God.

Dr. Doran then asked me a question that has stuck with me: “As you pray for that, is it a demand or a desire?”

Good question.

My answer is not the point of this blog post, so that’s all I’m sharing of my helpful, God-focused, personal session!

But the point I do want to share, getting back to the verses that hit home with me in John 15 this morning, is that I think I finally, fifteen years after being asked that question, saw the bottom-line way to truly recognize the difference between whether my prayer requests are demands or desires, and I’ll share that finding straight from what I wrote in my God-and-I-Time journal entry:

There’s a fine line between a demand and a desire. I think that what increases the difference between the two is when I pray for something and then attempt not to simply do right and abide in Him but to manipulate circumstances to bring about what I have requested.

A demand takes control; a desire yields control.

So as I continue to honor my commitment to pray for others and to pray for my own desires (and yes, that desire remains, despite total contentment in who and what I am today: single), I will expectantly wait for God, yielding control to and acknowledging the control of the One Who is listening to those requests with selfless love and with the ability to do what He has promised!

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