Every year various national polls indicate that almost 90% of US residents pray.
Most come to the great Giver looking for gifts. After all, Jesus did say, "The Father will give you whatever you ask in my name" (John 15:16 NIV). So why doesn't it work all the time?
I have prayed asking for my team to win, for my car to make it to the next exit before running out of gas, for the perfect job, for God to heal my dying friend, and for funds for this ministry. And, nothing. At times, I have ended up feeling more distant than ever and disconnected from the invisible God. Sadly, I had missed the point. God wants more for us, not more requests from us.
When we are young it's easy to talk to parents about what we want. "Mom, why can't I watch this program, or I want pizza for dinner." "Dad, I want to stay up later, just one more hour..." When we get to teen-years, we talk to almost everyone, but our parents. Then, as adults we check in briefly on family days.
Now, after our parents are gone, we long to sit and talk about life, dreams, decisions, and struggles. We wish for time, just to talk.
That's what prayer is: it's talking to God about life. Do you talk to Him about your discoveries, your surprises, your dreams, embarrassments, questions, and joys? Do you confess your weaknesses, your failures, your mess-ups? Do you ask Him to help you forget and forgive? Do you long to have an inside track, to see what He's up to? To share His secrets?
Do you talk back to Him, vent your frustrations, and struggle with the whys and why nots? When you finally understand how things are working together for good, do you share that with Him? Do you ask for courage to do what you already know you need to do? Do you pray for open eyes to see what God sees, to feel what He feels, to hear what He hears?
Do you ask Him to put people in your path who need to see an authentic believer? Do you ask for assignments, for opportunities to make Him proud? Do you thank Him for the adventures and discoveries and wonders along the way? Do you stop long enough for Him to write grace and peace on your heart?
God wants you to grow up, to learn how to be responsible and mature. He wants you to learn to make wise decisions. So, He doesn't jump at your every request.
He can open doors no man can shut and He can close doors no man can open, so should we just sit around waiting for doors to open? Or should we kick some of the doors open. Some of the great adventures of life are poised and positioned behind doors we have to kick open. In fact, the kicking of the doors is part of what makes it a God thing. Trust me, if God wants the door closed, you will not be able to kick it open.
I have learned:
When I ask God about a problem, or an opportunity, or a difficulty, or a healing, or a rescue, and I don't get an obvious answer, I make a choice to move ahead—to do something. Waiting on the Lord, doesn't mean hanging around the house doing nothing. This waiting gig is more about God changing me into His image, than me waiting to get an answer.Let God use the experience to find the new you.
And if God wants you to tackle what's behind door number 2, He will blow it open. It will be unmistakable. That's the kind of thing He loves to do. It will clearly be a miracle moment. The Bible is full of these kinds of events.
John Powell, author of "Unconditional Love," tells about a student named Tommy:
Tommy was an "atheist in residence" in my Theology of Faith course. At the end of the semester, as he was handing in his final, he asked...
"Do you think I'll ever find God?"
"No!" I said very emphatically.
"Why not?" he responded. "I thought that was the product you were pushing."
He turned to leave and I called out, "Tommy! I don't think you'll ever find Him, but I am absolutely certain that He will find you!"
Just a few years later I heard that Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to see me. When he walked into my office, his body was very badly wasted and the long hair had all fallen out as a result of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice was firm, for the first time, I believe. "Tommy, I've thought about you so often; I hear you are sick," I blurted out.
"Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It's a matter of weeks."
"Can you talk about it, Tom?" I asked.
"Sure, what would you like to know?" he replied.
"What's it like to be only twenty-four and dying?"
"Well, it could be worse."
"Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals, like being fifty and thinking that booze, seducing women, and making money are the real biggies in life."
"But what I really came to see you about," Tom said, "is something you said to me on the last day of class. I asked you if you thought I would ever find God and you said, 'No!' which surprised me. Then you said, 'But He will find you.' I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time."
"But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, that's when I got serious about locating God. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists against the bronze doors of heaven. But God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened. Did you ever try anything for a long time with great effort and with no success? You get psychologically glutted, fed up with trying.
"Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may be or may not be there, I just quit.
"I decided that I didn't really care about God, about an after life, or anything like that. I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more profitable. I thought about you and your class and I remembered something else you had said: 'The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them.'
"So, I began with the hardest one, my dad. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him. 'Dad?'
"The newspaper came down three slow inches. 'What is it?'
"Dad, I love you. I just wanted you to know that."
"The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I could never remember him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me. We talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning. It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me.
"I was only sorry about one thing... that I had waited so long. Here I was, just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to.
"Then, one day I turned around and God was there.
"Apparently God does things in His own way and at His own hour. But the important thing is that He was there. He found me! You were right, He found me even after I stopped looking for Him."
Reread this post and make a list of the things you need to talk to God about. Then, open up your soul and tell HIM you love Him. Just hang with Him for a while. Talk about your day.
And, next time you pray, don't forget to take action. Don't sit around waiting for God to act. Be responsible, unwrap your Holy Spirit led intuition and instinct and let God use the experience to find the new you.