Sunday, December 26, 2010

Prayers

Prayers are interesting.  Reading that, my Christian brothers and sisters might be thinking, “What do you mean ‘interesting?’ Prayers are incredible!”  And yes, they are incredible!  But for the new believer and for believers who forget, prayers are indeed interesting too.  Throughout the bible, you will find that when people have prayed they “cried out” to God.  And God listened.  They had a remarkable relationship with Him.  He was a living God and not some Santa Claus in the sky.  When they were in need, they cried out to Him.  And when they worshipped, they praised Him with joy. 

God does listen.  And He does answer prayers.  And that’s the scary part—how do we know?  As a new believer, I prayed for things I thought I needed.  And I prayed for things I knew I needed.  And when God answered, it was never the way I expected. 

For instance, last year I was struck heavily with financial burden.  I wasn’t receiving child support.  So I prayed desperately for financial help, expecting Him to change X’s heart and pay the child support.  Instead, God worked through the people around me.  One person suggested Angel Food Ministries for groceries.  Someone suggested I see a financial counselor about budgeting.  And people around me including my deployed brother helped me financially.  So, although I prayed for financial help and expected child support, God gave me even more!  He gave me a family.  He gave me resources.  And He enlightened me to manage my budget so well I could lead a class on it.  He answered my prayers and gave me what He knew I needed and not what I thought I needed.  And not in the way I thought I should have them answered.  Sometimes when you pray, you’ve got to really invest some time to think about what you’re asking for.

A friend of mine told me a story about how his own friend prayed for more time with his family.  He worked a lot and barely saw his wife and kids.  Well, he lost his job.  And at first, he asked God what that was all about.  “I prayed for one thing and I got fired.”  What he realized only later is that, he had an opportunity to spend more time with his family and losing his job brought him and his wife closer together as she helped him find a new one.  God works in ways we can’t imagine.  And sometimes when He answers prayers, we don’t always hear Him.

Last night, my prayer was answered and it didn’t dawn on me until moments after it happened.  Lately, I’ve been praying for God to help me stay with Him.  Meaning, I wanted to follow Him.  I wanted to have a relationship with Him.  But like all humans, I stray.  I curse a lot, something I rarely did pre-deployment.  I smoke more than my lungs can handle.  And I fight the urge to judge people in my mind.  So I’ve been praying for God to work in my life, to keep me walking with Him and to let me hear Him when He sees me walking away and He calls me back to Him.  In worship service last night, I prayed with all my heart.  In desperation my heart cried out to Him, telling Him I wanted to follow Him but that I have trouble fighting the human side of me.  By the end of the service, I knew He heard my prayer.

When I got to my room, my roommate Anna (also my bible study sister) and I were chatting from the other sides of our curtain dividers.  She told me, “I have a book for you.”  Intrigued, I opened my curtain and she stood there with a book, Forgotten God by Francis Chan.  “It is about the Holy Sprit,” she began.  “I’ve noticed that you have a really good understanding about God and our relationship with Him.  But you’ve told me before how you have trouble referring to scriptures that talk about how Christ lives in us.  And this book is about the Holy Spirit.”  I was humbled.  In our bible reading sessions, I always have a hard time using scriptures as examples or references and she got me a book that would help.  “A lot of people automatically know the Godhead—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  But most of us only focus on the Father and the Son and we forget the Holy Spirit.  I think it could help you.”  I hugged her, touched by such a gift.

Later as I sat in the smoke pit, I picked up the book and started reading.  In the second page of the Introduction, page 16, Chan says “If I were Satan and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kingdom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get churchgoers to ignore the Holy Spirit.” (para 3)  Immediately I thought, “Oh my gosh, she thinks I’m one of those people who go to church but don’t really even live their lives as Christians.  She thinks I just go to service and bible study and put on my Christian veil and then take it off as soon as I leave!” 

And then I asked myself, “Well, do I live a Christian life?”  And that’s when it hit me.  God answered my prayer through Anna.  No, I don’t believe she saw me as a fake Christian.  If I looked at myself as an outsider, I would see a pretty good person.  I don’t gossip.  I don’t hurt people.  I love helping others.  Sure I curse and smoke, but I never treat others unkindly.  When I think about it, I am indeed a pretty good human.  And Anna knew because of our discussions, that I honestly had trouble referring to the bible for guidance on how to live my life.  And this book is simply that—a book that reminds us about the Holy Spirit and that when It lives inside us, our lives really do change!  She wasn’t judging me and telling me I needed to be more Christian-like, she saw that I needed help.  God heard my prayer and worked through Anna to give me something that could help me “stay with Him” as I prayed so desperately for.

And not only did He answer my prayer, He answered it the way He knew was an amazing way.  He didn’t just peek through the clouds and command, “Combat Boots Mama, REMEMBER TO FOLLOW ME!”  He’s God, isn’t He?  He could do that.  But he DIDN’T.  He chose to use Anna, who just glows in Christianity, to help me.  By doing that, he gave me someone human I could relate to and connect with.  Someone who could help me stay on my walk with Christ.  He gave me a friend.

How awesome is God?  We will never stop being surprised at what He’ll do next.  I am so grateful for Him.

Thank You, Father, for being such an incredible God.  For being The God.  You have the power to move mountains just to show us You are there, but instead You choose to work in ways that are humble and ways that help us in more ways than we asked for.  So I thank You for all the good You have done in my life, whether they come through challenges or in the form of friendships.  In Jesus’ name, I praise You.  Amen.

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