Caption this…

How many times this week have you prayed for things you need? Did you have a list of things in mind that you presented to God or one specific thing? Have you already imagined when and how the answer to that prayer should come? Well… this week It has become very obvious to me that this is how I pray. I either come to God presenting a list of things that I need or sometimes it is for one specific major thing. And a lot of times I already envision how and when that need is to be met.

While this approach makes me very specific in my supplications, it also leaves very little room for allowing for God’s sovereignty in my life- particularly when the answers do not come when and how I was expecting. In the past weeks I have been thinking about the story of Jairus and his request of healing for his daughter. So for context, there was a Synagogue Leader circa Jesus’ times who once approached Jesus to come home with him and heal his daughter who was sick. That was a very specific request Jairus had and perhaps he had imagined how this was going to go- Jesus would follow him home with a large crowd of onlookers following, then Jesus would publicly say a few word like ” take your mat and walk” or spit in some sand which he would rub on her, or maybe would command a demon out of her or better still place his hands on her and instantly she will be healed. Whatever Jesus’ methods, Jairus was positive that if Jesus came to his house, his daughter would be healed. So he set about carrying his plan into action. Step 1. Earnestly plead with Jesus to come home with him…CHECK. Step 2. Jesus would agree to do so… CHECK. Step 3. His daughter would be healed… ERRRM….. Hello Jesus! Why have you stopped to ask who touched you? There is a crowd around you and the focus is to get to my house and heal my daughter. Why have you stopped? Excuse me! Who is this woman with the issue of blood who is throwing a monkey wrench into my plans?

We can speculate about how Jairus felt about this interruption to his plans. I do not know what was going on his mind when Jesus stopped to deal with something else but I know how I would have felt and reacted. Even if I did not show it, I would have been seething inside. I would have been furious! I know because I have been here many times where it seems like the answer to my prayers have stalled and how I envisioned my prayers would be be answered is not panning out like I imagined. I might stay in this story for a few posts because there is a lot I have learned in the past few weeks but today I will just dwell on two lessons.

Lesson One: What you think you need may not be what God knows you need

Jairus came to Jesus with a need for healing. His daughter was sick and what he thought his daughter needed was healing and so he asked for healing. He aligned himself to receive healing. But somewhere between his request and his answered prayer, something went awry. Jesus stopped to attend to someone else and while he was doing so, Jairus’ daughter died:

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Mark 5:35-36 NIV

Every hope of having his need met had just evaporated. He asked for healing and now the sick person was dead and so if you ask me, he had every reason to despair. But the truth of the matter was that Jairus’ daughter and family did not need to experience healing, their need was for more than just healing. What they needed was resurrection. Everything that was dead in their lives and in the lives of the people around them needed to have an encounter with the one who was LIFE himself. And so Jesus encouraged him: JUST BELIEVE.

Lesson Two: Jairus had to let go of his assumptions and expectations and simply trust Jesus in that moment of fear, doubt, disappointment, and maybe anger. And more often than not his is all we need to do- Just Believe. We do not need to speculate on or envision the how, where, when and who of our answered prayers. Just present our needs and believe that God who knows what is best for us, knows exactly what we need and will give us just that in due season.

For your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! 

Matthew 6:8

Remember, just like we do not hear God when we have already decided what He should be saying, so do we not see His hand at work when we decide how our needs should be met. So this week, I had a hard time putting a title to this post. Now that you have read through the post, what is your takeaway? How would you caption this post based on what God is saying to you?

Yours Truly

Making peace with the missing pieces

In my last post I shared at length about how sometimes I get anxious and how I am trying to work on letting God “take the wheel” in my life. This week I encountered a situation that left me spiraling again and someone said to me “just sit in the awkwardness”… What a weird piece of advice for someone who stresses about everything! The next day, I caught a few minutes of Steve Furtick’s sermon and he said “we need to make peace with the missing pieces”. That night, I picked up my bible and this is the verse that was on my readings for the day:

This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea…”

Isaiah 48: 17-18 NIV

Coincidence? I think not! You see a few days ago, I got so overwhelmed, I was feeling like perhaps praying had outlived its usefulness in my life. I did not even know where to start in the place of prayer so I decided not to bother. I was feeling very discontent with a few things in my life: health of my loved ones, finances, parenting choices, progress in my studies, the state of my career, marriage- everything was under a microscope and I was grossly discontent. This left me feeling defeated and devoid of peace- yes like there are missing pieces in every aspect of my life! And if you know me, I like things neat and tidy and metaphorically wrapped up in a bow, I do not do missing pieces well. In my despair, the scripture above hit me hard and touched me deep…. “I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is best for you and directs you in the way you should go and if only you had listened then you would have had peace like a river and you would have wellness of mind, body , soul and spirit like the waves of the sea”

As I reflected on the root cause of my anxiety and despair, I realized it mostly stems from unrealized expectations, broken dreams, unanswered prayers- pretty much life not going the way I hope and envisioned (which reminds me of my last post about hope. If you have not read it here is the link). Truth is life is messy and that’s just it! We were created from messiness- from the dust of the earth- by a God who did not call us forth from the dust but who got down and dirty in the dust to make us. So whenever life feels messy, who else can you turn to but God?

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:13-14 NIV

As I was walking away from the TV screen pondering over Steve Furtick’s statement about making peace with the missing pieces, he said “has it ever occurred to you that that missing piece is a piece only God can fill?” I have not stopped thinking about that statement in light of everything else I have shared. I know sometimes it is hard to turn to God, particularly when you feel He has disappointed you- by not answering a particular prayer, or leaving your hopes dashed or your dreams unfulfilled. But remember, while all we see are the pieces of our lives and the things that don’t fit, God sees the full picture. Which is why He says, if only you had listened to me, then your peace would have been like a river- in spite of what seems missing in your life because He sees the full picture. For thus says the Lord: “before you were formed, I knew you and from your mother’s womb I spoke your name, see I have engraved you in the palm of my hands and your walls are ever before me (Isaiah 49:1, 16; Jeremiah 1:5). So my question to you is “will you sit still in the awkwardness of life for just a moment longer?”; “will you make peace with the missing pieces of your life by finding peace in the Prince of Peace?”

Yours Truly

Prayer is not a grocery list

So a few days ago I interviewed for an opportunity and prior to the interview, I had spent days praying about it and preparing for it. So many people also prayed with me and by  the day of the interview I knew I could not have been any more prepared than I was. After waiting for days after the interview, I finally received the dreaded rejection email… “you did great but we decided to go another way”… and boy was I disappointed (and honestly maybe I still am just a little bit)!

For the rest of the day and week, I did not know how to react. I had asked that God’s will be done and now that His will had not gone my way, I was upset. I started searching for some encouragement from the bible, from songs and from social media and a few days ago my encouragement came. A friend sent me a video featuring the late Ravi Zacharias and he said:

In the Christian worldview prayer is not a grocery list of requests before God… prayer is not seeking to change the will of God. It is communion with the living God such that he will change you to have the ability to receive what it is that He has for you. Ravi Zacharias

I felt chastised. To have thought that because I have prayed and others had prayed that automatically meant that I would be selected for that opportunity was very presumptous. Up until now, I have been of the mindset that prayer changes the mind and will of God to be favourable towards us. And while I am still learning more about prayer, I ask myself, “If I am praying to change the will of the all-knowing and all-powerful God, whose will is nothing short of perfection, then whose will am I seeking for in my life?”

I realized that I prayed that God’s will be done for me regarding that opportunity but I was disappointed with the outcome because in reality what I was saying was “God I want you to give it to me regardless of what your plans are for me.” This month, I am learning what it means to surrender your will to God and I now know it is easier to blog about it than to actually live it.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12: 2 NIV

I need a transformation in my mindset to be able to live a fully surrended life – I am strong-willed! I need a transformation in how I pray and what I use the privilege of prayer for. Prayer is not to impose my will on God but as Ravi rightly said, to ask that God will renew my mind to be able to accept His will as the ultimate in my life. I am humbled by these thoughts and I pray God helps me.

What about you? What does prayer mean to you? Share your comments below.

Yours Truly

 

When God does not show up…

This week I have been thinking a lot about unanswered prayer. For the past 14 years, I have prayed for something that remains unanswered and it’s a real bummer. Month after month, it gets more and more difficult to stay positive about getting the answer I hoped to get. Not only have I been thinking about unanswered prayer but more especially how I have reacted over the years to those answered prayers.

As I get older, I have discovered that people disappoint and its easier to not trust people than to be disappointed. Unfortunately, I have also taken the same posture with God when it comes to certain areas of my life. This week I caught myself saying out loud about something I have been praying for: “well, if it happens, it happens. If not then I have nothing to lose!” This was not an affirmation of God’s sovereignty over my life. It was more of an “I don’t want to get too excited only to be disappointed….again” speech. Today I want to explore my posture when it seems like God has not and maybe will not show up. Particularly I want to examine my attitudes and self-talk.

Zacharias and Elizabeth are a perfect demonstration of attitude.

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Luke 1:5-7 NIV

In modern-day parlance, we can say Zacharias and Elizabeth were PKs just like me! I am sure they had prayed for years for a child and God did not show up! And now their infertility had been compounded by the fact that they were too old and the plumbing had probably stopped working. But see their attitude: Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. They never stopped being godly, obeying God to the letter, or serving God with the same gusto as they did probably the first time they prayed for kids. Were they ever disappointed? Very likely! Did they ever doubt that God will come through? Maybe (we know that Zacharias ended up unable to speak for 9 months because he doubted the angel’s good tidings that he will have a son in his old age)! The lesson here is that their situation never changed how they felt about God: who He was and what He was capable of. That is why their attitude towards God never changed. Has unanswered prayer changed how you feel about what God is capable of doing in your life? Has your attitude towards God’s abilities shifted ever so slightly because you have had a very long disappointment or a series of disappointments in receiving answers to prayer?

My encouragement to you is to go back to God and get an attitude adjustment. God always shows up. He is never late! He is always on time. Sounds cliche…I know but think about it… God was preparing Zacharias and Elizabeth to be the parents of the one who was to baptize the Christ! the one who was to prepare the way for the revolution that Jesus was about to bring. John the Baptist was the bridge between the old and the new dispensations. This means he had to be born at a specific time… not a moment too early or a moment too late. What seemed like God not showing up was in hindsight a case of perfect timing!

In the meanwhile, what if Zacharias and Elizabeth had compromised on their love for God just a little? What if they had decided to be spiteful and stop serving? What if their attitude changed ever so slightly? I doubt the outcome of their story would have been the same!

I know years of disappointment have made me jaded and I don’t pray with the same level of expectation and faith anymore! I still pray for that one thing I have been hoping for for years but I  just pray out of habit not because I am expectant. I make statements like God knows I need it and when he’s ready he’ll do it!  And although that statement is fundamentally true it is said with major attitude! Only you know if you need an attitude adjustment. I know I desperately need one.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. Psalm 139:1-3 NIV

Stay tuned for my reflections on self-talk.

Yours truly.