4.26.2012

But In Everything

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7 {NIV}

I'll be honest, I struggle with prayer. Not "struggle" as in, I don't believe it works, but "struggle" as in, I forget to do it until I'm in the midst of a crisis. When Peter gave me his old smart phone, one of the things I was the most excited about was having access to ebooks through the free Kindle app. I'm currently working my way through The Life of Trust; Being a Narrative of the Lord's Dealings With George Müller (which I found for free when I searched the Kindle store on my phone, but the only one I can find on Amazon right now is $2.99). Let's just say that the highlighting and bookmark tools have been getting a workout.

I remember hearing stories about George Müller when I was just a child, my mother's favorite being the story of the baker and the milk wagon (see the last story on the page). Müller was a man of prayer - combined with total faith that God would come through on His promise in Mark 11. It has been inspiring to read his testimony of how God first sought him when he was a young man who was intent on getting into trouble, and the following stories of how he was slowly changed through the work of the Holy Spirit.

One of the points that Müller makes early on in the book is that God wasn't providing or answering prayer because Müller was unique, He was doing it because that's what He promised in His word to all Believers.

"There is no reason to suppose that in the case of Mr. Müller and his associates there is anything exceptional or peculiar. What God has done for them we cannot doubt that, under the same conditions, He will do for every other believing disciple of Christ." {Kindle Location 279}

In other words, if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, mountains will move. This is the point where I struggle to find a balance between the "name it and claim it" Christians (with whom I don't agree), and having faith that the "prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective". I was always taught that God is not like a lucky rabbits foot, and just because you pray to have blue eyes, doesn't mean He going to change your eye color.

"While we believe this, however, we do not pretend to affirm that just such immediate results will always be seen. This would be to limit the omniscience of God by the short-sighted ignorance of man. It may best suit the purpose of infinite goodness to answer the prayer of faith by crosses and disappointments; but these in the end shall be found in the most signal manner to promote the object to be accomplished." {Kindle Location 291}

Along with teaching me the stories of people like George Müller and Amy Carmichael, my mother also taught me about how God chooses to answer prayer. I can clearly see her standing in front of a big flannel board, sticking on the words "Yes", "No", and "Wait". Just because we don't get the answer that we think we want, doesn't mean that God has not given us an answer. Remember, He can see the big picture, and He knows so much better than we do, what it is that we need.

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Müller discusses this aspect of prayer in relation to the Apostle Paul, "It doubtless was [...] a most unaccountable dispensation that he should have been impeded in his great work by the necessity of composing dissensions and rectifying errors which were constantly arising in the churches which he had planted, and, most of all, that so many years of his life should have been spent in prison. Yet it is to these, at the time untoward circumstances, that we owe the writing of those epistles which occupy so large a portion of the volume of inspiration, and without which the message of God to man would not have been completed. In no other way could his prayer to be useful to the cause of Christ have been so fully answered." {Kindle Location 302-303}

And that's the key, isn't it? Our prayers should not focus as much on, "Please let me get the job at XYZ Company" or "Please let me get married and raise a family", as much as they should be "Lord, please allow me to be useful to the cause of Christ, no matter what the circumstances." My prayers in crisis moments tend to be something like, "Lord, help me get through this" - which is not a bad prayer, but my prayers of late have been a bit closer to "Lord, may Your Will be done, and may You be glorified in the outcome."

I might know what I'd like to see happen - to see justice upheld, to get my dream job, to see relationships repaired - but if the answer to those prayers is "No", I will trust that it's because God has a plan for something better, even if it will be years before I see the results.

To Be Continued ...

3 comments:

  1. I remember my mother at the flannel board with the "yes, no and wait" flannel graph figures too! Happy memories.... :)

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  2. For me, focusing on prayer as a means of changing my mind and heart so that it aligns with God's will and plan has kept me from turning my prayer life into the proverbial rubbing of the rabbit's foot.
    Also, because I never experienced a flannel graph, the pervasive and collective memories that Christians share always make me smile.

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There are more than 400,000 words in the English language. My only request of you is this: Use them wisely.

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