We all have lists of “favorites”– favorite color, favorite foods, favorite songs, favorite bands, favorite movies, favorite books…the list goes on and on. And we all have our comfort zones– preferences, habits, traditions, routines– that impact the way we go through our daily lives. There is nothing inherently wrong with having favorite things or preferences. But we can let such things become idols or obsessions that get in the way of prayer and worship.
We all know someone who has a “pet peeve”–it comes up in every conversation, overshadows more important issues, and becomes a defining characteristic of that person. “Grammar Nazi”, “Clean Freak”, “Political Junkie”, that person who always spoils the new movie by giving you their critique; the person who can spot a piece of lint on your sweater from across the room; the person at the restaurant who is never satisfied…
We probably also know someone who “plays favorites”– they show favoritism in their families, in the workplace, and in other situations, to the detriment of others. They are unjust in their treatment; giving very unequal amounts of attention, time, energy, and love to those around them. This world plays favorites– we have celebrities, rock stars, corporate bigwigs, power brokers, tyrants, and billionaires, while countless millions remain nameless, forgotten, and oppressed.
God doesn’t “play favorites.” He chooses to bless both the just and the unjust; he offers the same salvation and mercy to rich and poor, foolish and wise, famous and forgotten, sanctimonious and scandalous; to any who will receive him. We must remember this in our prayers. God wants to hear our heart-cry; he wants all of it– our favorite praises, our naked confessions, our pet peeves, and our deepest needs. He does not bless us based on who we are, or how urgent our request may be to us–remember, he knows what is on our mind before we do! AND, he already knows our deepest needs, and which seemingly unimportant moments will have the greatest impact in our lives, and in our world.
One of the benefits I have found in keeping a prayer journal is reading back requests and needs I have raised–for two reasons. First, I am amazed and encouraged to see all the ways God has answered prayer over the months and years as I look back. I am reminded, humbled, astonished, and grateful–I receive fresh inspiration to worship, evidence to trust, and encouragement to hope.
Second, I am watching to see if I am “praying favorites”–spending more time listing and praying for “rock star” requests (miraculous healing, “prayer chain” prayers from the internet for people I don’t know, selfish prayers, praying for people based on their “importance”, etc.) than for the “other things” (my friend who wants prayer because she’s having a bad day, that friend who wants me to pray that his mother’s car will start after a cold and snowy weekend, confessing that “little” sin, praying for my annoying neighbor who just lost her cat, etc. ), There’s nothing wrong with praying for the former, unless those prayers are squeezing out other needs and getting in the way of being wholly open before God and seeking His heart and others’ needs above my own preferences.