This concept of God's favor has been rolling around in my brain.
The other day, I read a devotional by Rick Warren regarding God's favor; and I thought about a conversation with a friend who is being intentional about praying for God's favor for his wife; and I thought about the prayer requests I read every week from women who are asking for God's favor (whether they realize it or not).
I have no idea why the idea of God's favor is so baffling to me right now. It is probably due to the fact that we tend to treat God as if he is a short order cook. So if I am asking for God's favor in a particular situation, often I am singing that old Frank Sinatra song to him, "My Way."
It is so easy and so tempting to work out all of our life plans for God, seeking his blessing as if he were the godfather. Likewise, it is so like us humans to fail to recognize God's favor when it is right in front of us.
Have you ever run into someone at a place where you don't usually see them? I had that experience recently. I was touring SEARCH, an organization that works with homeless persons in Houston, when I ran into Sharon. At first, I stared blankly at her. She showed the first signs of recognition and then it hit me, my goodness, I know her. I know her from .... from ... from ... Turning Point, that's it! But what is her name? For the life of me, I couldn't remember her name until later. So I gave her a "nameless" hug and a "nameless" inquiry into how she was doing.
I didn't recognize Sharon because I didn't expect to see her at SEARCH. My mind connects her with Turning Point or my church. In fact, I have had many, many conversations with her at those two places. At SEARCH, she faded into the background; she did not show up on my radar screen.
Is God's favor like that ... there all along but I just don't see it? Does it show up in places where I don't expect it? Where I don't have the faith to believe it could be? I mean, why do we have to ask for God's favor in the first place? Seriously, do we have to ask for God's favor?
It says in the Bible that God causes the rain to fall on the good and the evil. Where's the favor in that?
Yet it also says that Mary, the mother of Jesus, found favor with God.
Isaac prayed for God's favor that his wife might have children; so did Jacob. Hannah made a similar plea on her own behalf.
The mother of James and John asked Jesus for her sons to receive favor from God the Father.
So there's a lot of talk about favor in the Bible, but not hard, fast rules about how it works. It seems sometimes we are to ask for it. Sometimes we just receive it. Sometimes we are not to ask for it. Sometimes we just ask, whether we're supposed to or not.
I know that there is nothing I can do or say to get God's attention in such a manner that he will give me a signing bonus of his favor. It's not a reward. It's not a pay raise. It's not a perk. So if nothing else, we can say that God's favor is unmerited.
And if it's unmerited, I have absolutely no control over it.
And if I have absolutely no control over it, I shouldn't ask for it in the course of reading my nightly begging list to God. No, it seems that if it comes up in the discussion at all, it would be a natural part of honest conversation with God.
Yes, we can express to God that we place great value in his favor. That we desire his blessings. That we believe he knows how to give good gifts to his children.
But no, we cannot wield it in any way, shape or form. And no, we can't view it as a special, elite treat just for us. And no, we cannot guarantee ourselves or anyone else that we will receive it in a particular way or at a particular time.
We can trust God that he loves to show favor to his children. It is his delight. And perhaps we would do better to thank him for it every day instead of acting as if we have not already received it.