Nothing ever goes smoothly, it seems. Or if something does it’s almost a shock. Our culture has a name for it: Murphy’s Law. No point in going into all the ways it shows up in daily living. But it might be worth thinking about it in a spiritual context.
Head for your Bible, and the first thing you’ll notice is that “smooth” is not generally a good thing at all! Some examples:
“My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” (Psalm 55:20-21)
“For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.” (Proverbs 5:3; similar in 2:16, 6:24, 7:5 & 21)
“Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.” (Proverbs 23:31)
And of special note:
“For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the LORD; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’ ” (Isaiah 30:9-11)
“For such people are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” (Romans 16:18)
What do we like better? Easy, or full of difficulties?
Silly question, right?
How about pleasing or displeasing to the senses? Or how about a notion of God that puts no responsibility on us, versus a one that is demanding?
We creatures of flesh know what we like…but is what we like necessarily better? These passages say (at the very least), “not always”. “Smooth and easy” is what the road to destruction is.
So do we pray for things to NOT go smoothly? That doesn’t feel quite right either. And going further into our Bible, we find some passages with a different picture of “smooth”:
“The way of the righteous is smooth; O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level.” (Isaiah 26:7)
“I have stirred him [Cyrus] in righteousness, and I will make all his ways smooth. He will build My city and let My exiles go free, without any payment or reward, says the Lord of armies.” (Isaiah 45:13)
“As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: ‘The voice of one calling out in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight! Every ravine will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be lowered; the crooked will become straight, and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh will see the salvation of God!’ ” (Luke 3:4-6)
Being smooth isn’t always bad! We are inclined to desire no problems, everything smooth, but we’re also aware of the dangers. How then should we think about “smooth” ways? How should we pray?
Something like this, I think:
“Thank you Father, for watching over me to protect me, smooth things for me, even the times I don’t realize you are doing it. Thank you also, Father, for the trials and troubles that draw me nearer to you and that force me to grow and develop. Please help me to push away the seductive, too-smooth pleasures, the flattering words, the no-obligation religions. Help me to have the courage to choose the more difficult way when it is the right way. I do pray that my way may be as smooth as your wisdom allows, and I pray that you will uphold me through the hard parts that will surely come. Thank you most of all, my loving God, for the vision of the end, when all toil and trouble are done away, when all ways are smoothed at last, in your Kingdom.”