Our great oversight, living in a culture of instant gratification, is missing the blessing of not getting what I want. We have been tricked into believing that meeting my wants results in happiness. Yes, there are times that it is true, but let us not forget the other times when not getting what we want is an even greater blessing!
This month I will be teaching a series on its “Time to Pray!” The title is not a question, or a casual mention but a call to seriously engage in one of, if not the most important, disciplines of the faith. I cannot produce statistics but empirical observation from the Bible reminds me of the urgency to pray.
Our challenge of living in a consumer-oriented culture warps our perspective of real life. I used to travel for business. I have to confess, that driving a Lincoln rental car, staying in the nicest hotels and eating every meal at some of the best restaurants warped my perspective on reality. You might not be surprised that it was a letdown driving my perfectly fine used car home from the airport. My once great bed at home was just not as good. And the great meals that my wife prepared seemed to be lacking (I might have to take up fasting when my lovely wife reads this!)
The same thing happens when we pray. Our same expectations from our retail mindset, “the customer comes first” has caused us to devalue the priority of prayer and miss the blessing of not getting what I ask for! The expectation of God answering my wishes and whims develops a deficient understanding of how God works through prayer. It is easy to conclude, though we would never say it out loud, prayer is not worth the effort. Yet, what is often overlooked is the change that God brings in our lives through praying.
I was reminded of this in a quote from an article on prayer. God’s work involves more than solving our “infirmity.” Quote, “The infirmity is acknowledged, also, in the universal admission, not only that most of the special petitions of Christians are not granted in form, but that most of the utility of prayer is really found in benefits not answering to the petitions, yet bestowed in consequence of them; as in the case of the apostle Paul, whose prayer for the removal of his affliction obtained not the removal of the evil, but the grace sufficient to bear it.” (Review of The Inspired Theory of Prayer)
The blessing of the Apostle Paul’s prayer was realized not by the removal of the “thorn in the flesh” but in the provision of God’s sufficient grace and power. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The same would be true of God’s refusal to take the life of the discouraged man of God, Elijah, hiding under a broom tree. Rather, God’s answer to Elijah’s request was instead to open the door to an even greater season of ministry!
Let me leave you with one last thought. The believer’s negligence of prayers blocks the Creator’s touch. The great blessing in praying, is it invites God to work on me (and others)! It is time to pray!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson