Sincere disciples of the Jesus often pray, “Lord use me, please use me.” The intention is honest – they want to be useful, to serve, to make a difference, and to extend the Kingdom of God. However, the particular choice of words reveals something seriously amiss.
Generals use troops to attack enemy positions, often with massive loss of life. In biblical times, rich men used slaves for their pleasure and profit. Morally corrupt, or desperate, mothers use their little children to beg at intersections. But God does not use His children!
In Old Testament times God occasionally used pagan kings to achieve His ends (Isa 7:20). Once He used a great fish, a vine, and a worm (Jonah). He even used a donkey (Numbers 22:28). But He never used His children! Jesus used language (John 10:6 16:25) and He taught us to use our worldly wealth (Luke 16:9). But He never used His disciples!
Those who are born again of the Spirit, who are disciples of Jesus, are sons not slaves (Galatians 4:7). We are children of God. We are sons who serve, not servants who pretend to be sons. (Ladies, for ‘sons’ please read ‘daughters’). Listen to this; ‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’ (1 John 3:1). We are children of God, not tools God uses to achieve His grand purposes. We are sons and daughters of the Most High, not dispensable ‘canon fodder’ in some cosmic conflict between good and evil.
How we understand our relationship to God has a profound effect on our theology and on the way we live. As His children, God has one overarching purpose for our lives – that we come to know Jesus, grow to be like Him, and help others to do likewise. To achieve this, God draws us into a co-operative relationship. He allows us to work with Him, to speak for Him, and to minister in His name and power. As we obediently co-operate, we grow and mature, from glory to glory - ‘And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit’. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Theologically, this understanding sheds light on issues such as God’s sovereignty versus man’s freedom to choose - God sovereignly grants us a meaningful degree of discretion so that we can mature as His children. It also helps us understand how the scriptures can be both divinely inspired and humanly produced. - God worked with human authors to produce what He wanted recorded for our growth and guidance.
At an entirely practical level, our understanding of our relationship to God makes a major difference to how we live. “God use me” implies a lack of responsibility and accountability, because if God chooses not to use me, then so be it, it’s not my fault. However, if God allows me into a co-operative venture with Himself, then I have a part to play, no matter how small.
God’s co-operation with us also sets a powerful example for us to follow. If God uses people then so should we! But, if God co-operates with us for our growth, then so should we co-operate with others for their growth. How many marriages have collapsed because husbands try to use their wives?! How many children grow into dysfunctional adulthood because parents try to use them for their own ambitions, pleasures, or vicarious achievements?!
Think too of the effect on church leadership. Elders are supposed to emulate Christ and grow His people. Pastors do not own churches, nor should they use churches to further their goals. Pastors should follow the example of Jesus, and give of themselves so that the church members can become more like the one they follow… Jesus!
So, “Lord, please use me” is probably not what we should pray. Rather pray; “Lord help me to follow you. Help me to serve others in your name. Give me ears to hear and eyes to see, a mind that seeks after you, and a heart of love for you and your children. Lord, help me please to be more like Jesus. Amen.”