Focal passage: Matthew 12:38-42
All too often we go to God in prayer asking that He would move in a specific way in order to prove His commitment to our good. We may dress it up to make ourselves look more pious in the moment, but behind our prayers often what we are saying to God is, “Speak to me by answering this prayer in the way that I am asking. Show me a sign to prove you are with me and able to help me.”
Then we go looking for signs or feelings to see if God is answering our prayer.
In Matthew 12:38, the Pharisees approach Jesus similarly, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
They do not cover it up with pious language, they just simply admit, “we want a sign.” I am always astonished at this request. A sign? Really?
Jesus had already healed a leper (8:1-4), the Centurion’s paralyzed son (8:5-13), Peter’s mother-in-law, everyone from the city who had demons or were sick (8:14-17), two demoniacs from the Gadarenes, (8:28-34), another paralytic (9:1-8), a woman who had severe bleeding (9:18-26), a dead girl (9:18-26), two men born blind (9:27-31), a mute man (9:32-34) and the man with a withered hand (12:9-14).
What more could they need? What more could we need?
When we pray prayers that ask God to prove His love or commitment to us, we are acting more like this group of scribes and Pharisees than we are faithful followers of King Jesus.
Jesus answers them (and us) by saying there is only one sign needed for a person to know the love and power of God, and that is an empty tomb in the Middle East. Jesus is the truer Jonah who was swallowed by a more sinister grave only to return from the depths three days later.
So may we keep making bold requests to God in prayer, but let us do so because the only sign we need to believe in His good and sovereign rule over our lives has already happened – His tomb is still empty.