Monday, March 23, 2020

Trying to Earn It

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see."
Hebrews 11: 1

     I admit it.  I am a cause-and-effect person.  Logic rules. 
     Some of the cause-and-effect lessons learned are pretty mundane:  if I eat the entire carton of cherry chocolate-chip ice cream I won’t have room for dinner—among other consequences.  If I don’t clean the kitchen my mother will stop over unannounced.
     There are heavier situations where this also applies.  If I want my husband to listen to me, I have to listen to him.  If I want to get a book published, I need to work hard.  Very hard.
     I find comfort in this logical progression of action and reaction.  I can depend on it. I am most comfortable with people and circumstances that fit into this mold.
     Enter God.  And faith.  And prayer.  Not just any prayer.  Big prayers for important, heartfelt needs.
     Everybody has them, those worries that test our faith and make us wonder if God is listening, because if He is, why is the answer taking so long?
     In my case it wasn’t even a question of yes-or-no, but when.
     I won’t go into the details of the current prayer of my heart, because I want you to think about your big prayers, the ones that linger . . .  .
     A big part of my problem with the waiting stems from my cause-and-effect attitude.  If I did thus-and-so surely God would answer my prayer.  Going along with my pragmatic nature, the thus-and-so has evolved as time went along. Trial and error, you know.
     Yet no matter what I did I still didn’t have an answer to my prayers other than “no” or “wait”.
     I am not a “no” or “wait” person.
     But I am tenacious.  Call that stubborn.  If praying one way didn’t work, I’d try another.
    And another.
    And another.
    Prayer is a wonderful thing, it’s our intimate connection with God.  He calls us to pray. And yet, I began to realize the way I was using prayer was more like a bargaining chip than an offering of love and respect to my Creator.  Over and over I let logic be my prayer-mentor, even as I followed the instructions of the Bible:
     If I prayed without ceasing surely God would answer my prayer. “Rejoice always,  pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (I Thessalonians  5: 16-18)
     No answer.
     If I boldly went before the throne and asked for this prayer of my heart, surely God would answer my prayer.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 16)
     If I specifically asked for God’s will to be done, surely I’d get an answer.  “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (I John 5: 14)
     No answer.
     If I made sure I said, “in the name of Jesus Christ my Savior” at the end of each prayer, surely God would answer my prayer. “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14: 14)
     No answer.
     If my husband and I (and others) prayed for our need, surely it would be answered.  "Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18: 19)
     No answer.
     If I tried real hard to be perfect, was nice to everybody...and giving, and loving, had quiet time with the Lord thirty minutes each and every day, went to church, sat right up front…
     No answer.

     If I prayed humbly, meekly, loudly, softly, on my knees, arms up-raised, prostrate on the ground, through tears…
     No answer.
     If I acted like I didn’t care…
     Never mind.
     I’d  been praying two and a half years and had utilized all these methods of getting God to answer me.  What was I doing wrong?
     A revelation came to me one morning when I took a walk to get the paper.  I love this daily task when the day is fresh and new.  Each morning there is a different sunrise, and I look forward to seeing what new beauty God has created.  But on this particular day I was struck with a thought:  God makes a different sunrise every day for no reason other than He wants to create this beauty for us—as a gift.
     As a gift.
     As.  A.  Gift.
     What had I been doing wrong?  I’d been trying to make my prayers be answered!  The praying was right.  The faith was right.  But thinking that I had to DO something SAY something THINK something or BE something as a requirement for God answering my prayer . . . as logical as those attitudes are within the secular world, they are completely off base in the world of faith.
     God would answer my prayer not because of me, but because He loved me.  He would answer my prayer as a gift freely given, lovingly given.  There were no conditions to be met or hoops to jump through.  As with salvation, the answer to my prayer could not be earned, only given through God’s grace and love.
     All He asked of me was to believe in Him and in His son, Jesus.
     I stopped on the driveway and faced the gift of the sunrise, and there I suddenly knew the answer was surely coming—in God’s time . . . because He loved me.
     I needed to stop trying so hard.  I needed to trust Him.  Love Him back. “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37: 4)
     I’m still waiting.
     And honestly, it’s hard for me to let go of the logic and control and let God be God. And it’s hard for me to quit judging myself against a standard that even God doesn’t insist on.
    But I’m determined.  And hopeful.  And . . .
    Better off.  Because of the delay in His answer I now have a stronger faith and I am waiting a little more patiently in the knowledge of His love for me.
   God answers all prayers.  That keeps me going.
   P.S.  You’ll never believe this—or perhaps you will. Two days after the sunrise revelation, I wrote this article, and ten days after that…God answered my prayer!  So don’t give up.  You may not be waiting on Him.  Maybe He’s waiting on you…

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