I pondered on what true conversion and salvation looks like, how the Bible defines it, and how it is necessary for citizenship in the Kingdom of God (but not necessarily the modern definition of church). This was after reading a question posed by my Pastor when he raised the question of the difference between being a follower of Jesus and being a fan of Jesus. I pondered the difference between the church of God and the Kingdom of God. (More to come on that too!)
But today, after reading just the red letters of my Bible, I want to begin to broach the topic of prayer answers, or lack thereof, of asking and receiving, of faith and doubt, of the role players in prayer, and the possibilities in prayer.
Haven’t we all asked the “Whys?” of unanswered prayer and hard circumstances? Why God? Why this? Why now? Why me? I know I have. I don’t particularly think that it’s wrong to ask God questions, however, I do think it’s wrong to question God, to question His ability, motives and His methods. That only leads to bitterness, doubt and unbelief and is a dangerous place. Yet, at times, things happen that cause us to grow suspicious of what God is doing. His ways are higher than ours, His thoughts massively deeper than ours, and are done with an eternal purpose (a Kingdom purpose) in mind which may tax our ability to understand His eternal idea in the temporal. And although I do believe that God is sovereign, I don’t use that excuse to neglect my investigation of why things happen to me and what God wants me to learn, grow in, or change as a result. I don’t allow myself to think that I have no control of my own life because it is obvious from scripture that our lives are planned by God, but we have some input, the scripts can be altered. Prayer changes things.
I worked with a young lady whose life motto was “Everything happens for a reason.” It was a glib expression that she used everytime something bad happened to her. What I never understood was why she never took it one step further. She never tried to find out what the reason was. Seriously, I could have helped her out so many times if she would have asked but she continued in her self-imposed ignorance, rendering herself a particle in the chaotic cosmos of life, floating along as helplessly as a dried leaf floats down a fast moving stream. I am someone who wants to understand the “Whys?” of life, even if it proves me to be at fault. Even if it hurts. That’s called growth! That doesn’t mean that God has explained every bad thing that has ever happened to me, because He hasn’t (yet), but He has shown me many times when I was partially, or totally ignorant or complicit in them and I was able to make adjustments so that they could be avoided in the future. I’ve also found that the understanding the truth helps ease some of the angst that comes with hard times and gives me hope for the future.
I’m sure that Zacharius, after questioning God’s ability while ministering in the temple, never did that again. After being rendered mute for his wife’s entire pregnancy, I bet he learned his lesson. Just think of it. When Elizabeth wanted pickles and ice cream, he just had to go get them because he couldn’t tell her to go get them herself. Can you imagine having to go through the first pregnancy, at their age, without being able to say one word? Just having to listen to her complain of back pain, swollen feet, stretch marks and not being able to tell his buddies how much he was suffering too? Wow! What a predicament! LOL! While Elizabeth was telling everyone what a miracle her baby was, Zacharius was prevented from saying one word of his experience in the temple and boy, what a story he had to tell.
Meanwhile, in another town, after hearing even more incredible news from the angel, Mary, fully believing what the angel said was possible and would happen, simply questioned the “Hows?” of his message. I have to admit, I would probably have the same questions as she did because let’s face it, she was going to be asking people to believe the unbelievable when most would just believe that she got caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Afterall, there had been no miracles in Israel for 400 years, unless you believe the legends of people like Honi who slept for 70 years in an old tree trunk and who drew a circle around himself in the dust and vowed not to leave it until God answered his prayer. And that story is what got me to thinking about prayer and answers to prayer.
Honi, a Jewish scholar of the first century and a supposed miracle worker, petitioned God for rain when the rainy season was late in coming and vowed not to step outside the circle until God sent it. According to the legend, he stayed in the circle until God sent rain and when God did send rain, then he complained that it was too hard of a rain, so God changed it to a nice, soaking rain. (Boy could we use this man in Centre County these days! Instead, we have Moses living somewhere incognito in the area and he parts the waters of every rain storm that heads our way! Sorry, I got a little distracted by the drought!) Some people felt that Honi was irreverent in his prayer, making demands upon the Lord. Who did he think he was? But if the legend is true, it worked! And that is when my mind began to ponder. I began to think about desperate prayer, something our Pastor speaks of frequently. I began to think about making requests in prayer vs. making a demand in prayer. Obviously, this man put a demand on God, and God answered. He didn’t pray some flowery prayer softening God up with some praise and worship and meekly asking if God wouldn’t please send some rain, not too much, not too little, piously praying Proverbs 30:7-9, and adding at the end, “if it be Thy Will.” Of course, this is a legend and not Biblical truth. So I began to look in scripture at the prayers people have prayed and at the times when prayers were answered. I began to think about our position as children of the Kingdom and what rights, responsibilities and privileges that affords us. I began to remember the times I have been desperate in prayer, when I’ve taken authority over the works of the devil in prayer, when I’ve seen instantaneous miracles in prayer, and of all the answers to prayer I’ve received through the years. But mostly, I pondered who it is that I prayed to and what He has said about prayer and frankly, I think Honi was on to something.
So, if this has piqued your interest, stay tuned. In the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing more on this and the other things I have been pondering as well because if I know anything about my Pappa God, they all fit together for a reason that is going to change my life!
What from God's Word have you been pondering lately? I hope you have a place as lovely as the pond in the photo to do your "pondering." My husband and I often walk these grounds and discuss what God is showing us from His Word, inbetween photos, of course. My hubs is so patient with me. I just can't "see a photo" without at least trying to capture it with my camera. Oh, the life of an artsy-fartsy girl but you have to admit, God puts some beautiful art out there for us to enjoy and I want to remember every single piece of it.
Until next blog, could I suggest spending some time in God’s Word? Maybe you too, could read just the red letters of the New Testament. Or perhaps look up every reference to asking, seeking, knocking, prayer. Read the new testament and record every prayer answer and every request that was answered by Jesus. Find out if Jesus ever refused to answer when faith was present. Find out if Jesus ever refused to heal. Find out what Jesus said about faith. What He said about prayer. What He said IN prayer. Put a demand on the Holy Spirit to do what He does best, teaching and revealing the Word of God to your heart. I would be so bold to say that when He’s done, your life won’t be the same either.