For the last year, I have been reading a lot of books that have dealt mostly with my personal relationship with God. This has been an interesting time for me, because I never realized just how much I tend to neglect the relationship that is supposed to be the most important in my life.
One thing that has really stood out to me during this year has been prayer. As I mentioned last night during the evening service, prayer had just about fallen off of my radar growing up. When I was younger, my parents would pray with me and my sister, but as time went on, and my sister and I started to get older, that daily practice became less and less. I am sad to say it, but prayer just about vanished from my life. I began practicing what has become named “9-1-1” prayers. I would pray, but only in real moments of crisis. I wouldn’t think about God for days or even weeks, and then something bad would happen and I would cry out like never before, and once God showed up, I would forget and go back to the way life was before. It wasn’t until after I had surrendered to the call of ministry that I really began to pray more.
One day while I was attending Wayland Baptist University, I received a phone call informing me that I had a hold on my account because I had not paid my bill. This was news to me, because I had never been told about a bill. It was very frustrating for me because I felt God wanted me to go to Wayland to get my education and I had no job, or prospects for a job at this point, to help me pay for my time there. After being told the amount that I owed the school, I called my dad to see if my parents could offer some help (bail me out so I could eat is more like it). It was a brief phone call. My dad said he would help this one time, but that I was going to have to get a job and pay for school myself, or my time at Wayland would be short-lived! I was at a complete loss for words when I got off the phone. I knew I was where God wanted me, I had no money and no job, and from the current trajectory was soon to be out of school…
So I decided to go, in what had become my usual habit, to a quiet and secluded place and offer up my 9-1-1 emergency prayer to God. I chose the small chapel on the third floor of the library. When I walked into the chapel I realized that some other folks had gone there to chat for a little bit, so I went to the farthest place from them and decided to awkwardly wait them out. Eventually they left the chapel (probably because I kept awkwardly glancing in their direction in hopes that they would see my discomfort and leave before I lost my nerve and left first). That’s when it happened! I jumped out of my seat and began to let God have it! I was mad and for the first time in my life I was going to give God a piece of my mind! After ranting and raving for a solid 20 minutes about my current predicament, I laid it all out on the table for God. I calmed down and said God I know that this is where you want me, but I don’t have the money to pay for this school, and I don’t have any options for jobs (before going to the chapel a friend took me around campus to all the departments and asked them to give me a job-they all said no). I told God that the only way this was going to work out was if he figured this mess out!
A couple of days passed and my choir director began to take an interest in me, and asked if I would be interesting in doing a special for the church he was leading music for. I hesitated but he offered to help me work on a special, plus buy me breakfast and lunch on that Sunday! I went to sing a special, and was asked to lead all the hymns and songs too! Thinking this was just a one time thing, I went along with everything and really enjoyed myself. I got to meet a lot of super nice and sweet people and felt like this was a really nice little church. Three days later I got a call from the interim pastor asking if I wanted a job!
Within a week of my prayer, I had been offered a job that wasn’t even on my radar. I became the interim music minister at First Baptist Church in Hart, Texas. I was conflicted at first because I didn’t feel called to be a music minister, but when the pastor told me they would pay me $75 a week I enthusiastically accepted the job!
When I reflect on this time in my life I can see God’s had at work. I prayed for God to work this out because I wasn’t able to do this myself, and it was like God was saying “Challenge Accepted”! He showed up and showed off! And that is one thing that God loves to do!
Since that day, my prayer has slowly grown from a 9-1-1 prayer life, to a deeper, more personal level, and God has shown me 2 cool insights on prayer.
First, God loves honesty in our prayers. Prayer is meant to be a conversation between God and His child. When I think about being honest with God during prayer I can’t help but think of when Jesus asks God to remove the cup from him in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was honest with God! He didn’t really want to die such a cruel and shameful death. But Jesus desire was for God’s will to be done, so when God said no, he willingly accepted the shame of the cross so that God’s will would be done.
God loves it when we are honest with Him in our prayers because our honesty with Him makes the relationship real. We don’t have to use fancy lingo to talk to God, we just have to be real. We don’t always get the outcome we ask for, but our relationship grows by leaps and bounds through our honest conversations with God, than through fancy word play. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 6:7-8, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” God knows what we need before we ask! I don’t think there is a greater reason to be honest with God than that statement! God already knows what you’re going to say and what you need, so just tell Him out of genuine honesty.
Second, God loves it when our prayers exceed our ability because He gets all the glory! If we are able to do everything we pray to God for, what’s the point in praying? Of course, God listens to our prayers, but imagine the excitement that He gets when we pray for something that can only be accomplished by Him! It’s like when someone asks us to do something that we are really good at and get the chance to show off just how good we are! God loves to keep us in awe of Him by showing us just how much He is able to do and all the crazy awesome things that He can do! In his book, Chase The Lion, Mark Batterson talks about the importance of having God-sized dreams. Using the image of a 500 pound lion, Batterson talks about how Benaiah, one of King David’s mighty men, chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day and killed it. Normally, when someone sees a lion they run away from the beast, not towards it! Not Benaiah! When he saw this lion, he didn’t see a 500 pound life-ending problem; he saw a 500 pound opportunity. There are times in life when things pop up and we honestly don’t know how to deal with them. Problems show up and we have the urge to run away, or “pray away”. We will pray to God and ask that he take the problem away; we ask that God deliver us from the issue, or we just pretend that it’s not there. But what if God wants to use this problem or issue as an opportunity to show you just what He can do? I believe that God is honored when we come to Him with prayers beyond our ability because it is in those times that God gets the glory. So I want to encourage you, the next time you are faced with a 500 pound problem, train your mind to see it as an opportunity and run to God with it and see what He will do!
I hope that these two insights can be helpful to you, and that God begins to show up and show off in your life more clearly!