Today I would like to reflect briefly on the Old Testament reading from the book of Numbers (21: 4-9). It is part of the story of the Exodus, reflecting on the forty years that the Israelites spent in the desert. In this particular incident, the people were complaining and stating that they were better off in Egypt. This seems to be confirmed when they are plagued by serpents who are biting them. But they come to the conclusion that it is a punishment for doubting God, and so repent.
This seems to be a pattern for the people of Israel, and for us as well. We ask God to help us ("Please God, help me find a job, sell my house, get into college"). God answers our prayers. But then we are not satisfied with the way God answers our prayers ("I hate this job, I did not get enough money for my house, school stinks"). So we grumble, complain and doubt ("How could God do this to me! God hates me! God never listens to me!"). Then we end up going back and asking God to help us again. It is a vicious circle, with us doing all of the complaining and God patiently listening and answering.
I think that we need a new perspective on how we pray and what we ask for in prayer. We sometimes get so specific that we try to lock God in to what we want, rather than being open to what God wants. and therein lies the problem. Until we can get to the place that Jesus showed us ("Not my will, but Your be done"), we will never realize the power of God. Unless we give up our insistence on having things our own way, we can never see the beauty and wisdom of God's way. And if we do not complete each prayer with the idea that, even though I think my request is a good one, I am open to whatever God want of me, we will never break the cycle of complain, complain, complain.