Bless me. Bless him. Bless them. Our prayers are full of cries to the Lord for his blessings. WE ask God to bless food, medical care, or tired moms. We ask for God to bless our churches, our outreach, and our services.
But here is a question: Why? What reason do we give to the Lord for why we want to be blessed? Is our desire simply that things will be easy for us? If so, that is something we should recognize. Is our desire that God bless us for another outcome? If so, we should realize that too.
This morning, I was reading through Psalm 67. It’s short, so I’ll just include it here. What got my attention is the reason that the psalmist asks for blessing. He has a very clear reason, repeatedly mentioned in the psalm, for why he wants God to do his people good.
1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
2 that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
6 The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
7 God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!
The psalm opens with a cry for blessing in verse 1 and follows immediately with the reason, “that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” With the word “that,” hear the reason. It is a so that or an in order that sort of concept. Bless us. Why? So that your way and saving power may be known all over the world.
In verses 3-4, we see that an apparent result of the nations knowing of the glory and way of God is that the peoples will praise God and the nations will be glad.
Then, in verse 7, we see something similar, just without the explanatory term. The psalmist concludes, “God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!” So, on the one hand, we again see the blessing of God on the people of God. What is the result? On the other side, the result is that the nations will fear, rightly reverence and honor, the Lord.
So, why ask for God to bless you. Be careful here. It might seem that the answer is simply that we are going to want God’s blessing for evangelism. And that is almost right, though it is incomplete. The psalmist is not saying that he wants God to bless the people of God with earthly ease so that others will see that ease, want that ease, and then come to God to get that ease. That type of thinking is the mistake behind a great deal of church outreach in the 21st century. Many churches put forth the blessings of God as the carrot to try to draw people into the church.
What I think is missing in the idea of asking for blessing so that people will be drawn to the blessing is that this can quickly become about the benefits given by God more than about God himself. If you pay attention to the psalmist’s reasoning, he is asking for God’s blessing so that God’s ways, the fear of him, the glory of God might spread. The psalmist is asking for the people of God to be blessed by God so that the world around might see and understand the glory, the goodness, and even the justice of God. The idea is that, when people see God and his glory on display, God will draw to himself a people, thus making the nations glad in him.
Now, go back and ask why we ask for blessing. I’m not at all saying that it is wrong for us to pray for God to bless our families with health and even ease. I am not opposed to praying that God bless a doctor with wisdom to care for a patient. The point that I am making is that, when we think most biblically, our request for blessing is going to be motivated by the glory of God. We want God to bless so that in that blessing, he might display his attributes both to us and to a watching world. We want the glory of God to shine over all the nations. We rejoice as we experience that glory. Our souls are filled and satisfied when we know the majesty of God. And so we pray for blessing in order that the main goal of the magnification of the glory of God be accomplished. Results of that glory include our joy and the spread of the gospel to the nations.