Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering –fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Genesis 4:2–5
When we pray we must make a sacrifice. We first have to surrender something. That is the difference between Abel and Cain. With his offering Abel gave himself and all he had – fat portions. Cain, however, kept back something for himself and expected something because of his offering. There is a big difference between these two.
We can make an offering selfishly, or we can make an offering in true surrender. We can also pray selfishly, or we can pray in true surrender. Some people pray thinking only of themselves, quietly wishing to get as much as they can from God. Others, however, do not think of themselves at all and long only that God takes possession of them. Again, there is a big, big difference.
There are times when life gets beyond our control and fear overtakes us. Like Cain, we shudder and pray and make offerings to God. However, we only do this to obtain speedy help for ourselves and rid ourselves of fear. We humble ourselves a little and cry out, “Dear God, help me!” But afterwards we are the same old person, living life as usual. Once again we have our house, our health, our money and possessions, and we can look after our own welfare pretty much by ourselves. Perhaps we still pray from time to time, giving thanks: “God is kind. Without him things would not be going so well for me.” But all the while, we are filled with selfishness.
When we pray, what is offered or sacrificed is not so important. People in the Old Testament could offer a little dove or an ox; it was all the same. It did not matter to God whether much or little was brought to him. What mattered was whether it was brought selfishly or willingly. And whether we pray selfishly or in true surrender is still important today.
Let us beware. God does not want our prayers and offerings if they spring only from self-interest. If we don’t burn for God and for his kingdom on earth, our religion is like inferior plaster – it falls down again. Praying for all our little woes is of no use, it does nothing for God. It kills true prayer, as Abel was killed by Cain. Let us take warning. Everything depends on whether God has us completely. So offer your whole self to God – this is the only sacrifice that matters.
Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt