“I, the Lord, am your God. You shall have no other gods before me.” – God
“Of course I don’t worship anyone other than God,” you might say. But is God really a priority in your life? During this season of Lent, we have a wonderful opportunity to grow closer to God. We can devote ourselves to prayer and service and sacrifice, and in so doing, make God ever more a priority in our lives.
Many of us have been there. We let many things come before God in our busy and often hectic lives. What does it actually mean not to have any other gods before God? When you pray, you are praying to God, right? You make an effort to get to Mass on Sundays, right? Duh, you don’t worship anything else…or do you?
In today’s world, and in the days when Moses received the Commandments, even material objects can be seen as other gods before God. Do you put your faith in your money? Your clothes? Your social status? What is it that drives you each and everyday to make the decisions you do?
One way to see what is really important in your life is to look at the time and effort you spend. If you say you value your family but spend most of your time at home avoiding them and watching television, you might want to examine if your top priority is really your family. Likewise with God. Do you spend time in prayer each day? What kind of effort do you put into your relationship with God? When you’re doing things outside of a set prayer time, do you do them prayerfully and with love for God? When you enjoy things, do you thank God? Do you turn to God when you’re enduring big or small sufferings?
Freedom in Loving God
God was hardly joking when he said not to put other gods before him. In truth, the real joy and fulfillment of letting God take control of your life is the most freeing choice one can make. It might seem ironic that serving God will lead to true freedom, but the fact is that whatever we devote ourselves to is in some way something we serve. Who or what we serve determines how free we are in our service.
The joy and fulfillment that result from putting God first often come through the Cross. As a result, those who devote themselves entirely to God will not always experience happiness. Being sad is not a sign that you don’t love God. Turning to God in the midst of sadness and suffering can ultimately lead to fulfillment by strengthening our relationship with God, even if the way to that fulfillment is long and sometimes difficult.
When you put God first, you are freer to live your life and be of assistance to others who may be struggling. You have a wonderful chance to be Christ-like to others and help them walk the path that you are walking.
No Other Gods Before the True God
As Catholics we worship only the one, true God described in the Nicene Creed. We do not worship saints, statues or anything else that is an obstacle to God. To some, our Catholic practices may make it appear that we are acting contrary to this commandment. That, however, is not the case.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites would bow before the Ark of the Covenant, which included images of angels (cf. Joshua 7:6-7). They were worshipping God, not the images before which they bowed. Likewise, a Catholic praying before a statue is not worshipping that statue or otherwise committing idolatry. Furthermore, although we can see the outward appearances of what someone is doing in prayer, only God knows what is truly in one’s heart and knows if one is truly devoted only to him.
In short, it is not official Catholic practice to worship anything or anyone other than the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that comprise God.
Prayer and Answers to Prayer
Jesus said if you ask anything in faith it will be granted. Don’t try to fool God into giving you what you want, however. Asking God superstitiously or making deals with him usually does not work. It must be a true faith from a true heart that has placed its worries into the hands of God and has asked of him in earnest faith. God is not a divine vending machine that will give you whatever you order as long as you put in the right currency.
When Jesus told us that God would grant us anything we asked in his name, it does not mean that every prayer will be answered with an obvious “yes.” For example, if you pray, “God, please give me a Ferrari. In Jesus’ name, Amen,” it is highly unlikely that you will end up getting a Ferrari. Rather, asking in Jesus’ name means that we are asking with the heart of Jesus. We are asking God for the very things Jesus wants for us. When we do this, we can be guaranteed that God hears our prayer.
It can be difficult when God does not give us the answers we want. Sometimes our prayers are for things we desperately want, like healing for a relative suffering a serious illness. In these moments, when the answer isn’t a restoration of health for your loved one, it can be a serious test of our faith in God. In these moments, it is important to trust.
Not in our money, clothes, powerful friends, etc. can we place our total trust and know that everything will be taken care of and experience true joy. You can rest assured that if you trust God completely he will answer your prayers.