So, does God have the right to answer prayer His way? OR are our prayers merely rhetorical questions, that have to be answered in a prescribed manner? “Pray without ceasing” the Bible says… and some days I do just that. I have all kinds of prayers I am tossing up, but to be honest, many of them are rhetorical and sarcastic. That is right, sarcastic. Sometimes I am praying to make a point, even to grumble that the last prayer wasn’t answered in a timely fashion… Mmmm.
Look, I do want to be honest. Now I didn’t say I was going to be, but I did say I want to be honest! Sometimes I get all caught up on the promises of God, and try to bend God’s ear or His arm according to His Word, just so I get what I want. Does that sound like some of your prayers too? Well, I am not proud of it, but it happens with me more often than I care to admit.
So I want to tell you a little story of how God taught me a lesson without talking to me. He actually taught me a lesson by listening to me… meticulously! You see I read a part of scripture where Jesus said that we needed to pray like a woman who had brought her petitions before an unjust judge so often, that he gave in to her because he didn’t want her to wear him out (Luke 18:1-8). And I was using that parable as the basis for trying to get God to see things my way, and give me what I was asking of Him.
Now I think after praying over a year straight on the same issue I would get some response out of God… I did. My vehicle broke down and I had to replace the timing chains in it. Now I am too broke to hire a mechanic, and too compulsive to let someone else work on my vehicle, so I took the task on myself. I ordered the parts and proceeded to take my vehicle apart, on the street in front of my house. That is right, I didn’t have a shop either.
Well, I never really connected the two things together, what with me praying about an unrelated thing and my vehicle breaking down, but I would eventually. I managed over the course of a couple months (by the way, that was way too long for my wife to do without a vehicle), but we lived in town, so I managed between some small jobs to get it done. But in the process I tore open an old surgery… and ended up with a incisional hernia at the top of my stomach. I guess lifting on an engine block over a sharp hood latch isn’t a good idea.
Pray without ceasing. 1Thessalonians5:17
OK, lets see where we are in the score… that’s right I didn’t tell you that I had to remove the transmission too, yes, in this particular Ford 4.0 the engine has a timing chain at the rear of the engine, and the transmission has to be separated from the motor in order to get at it… thus the 2 months street-side mechanics fiasco! Timing chains, transmission removal and one hernia… cool. But still no answer to my prayers! But I am not giving up!
So now I am officially off work, and cannot do heavy lifting… and I do some work out of town for a Church… that is a 600 mile trip both ways… to help a Church get a work started. Now I haven’t been on salary since I was ordained for the Ministry (23 years), but this was different, as I said I was broke, and couldn’t very well accept this job so far from home without covering my cost… and some of my rent at home.
Well that lasted a month and they didn’t need me anymore… and what would you know… my timing chains went again! It seems that the replacement parts are made from plastic (about an inch wide in one part and an 1/8th inch thick) a recipe for disaster! Looks like I need some patience and humility. SO I order the parts again, took apart my vehicle and realize that it is a great opportunity to do a better job than I did the previous time. You see the first time I couldn’t put one transmission bolt in, and so I just gave up and threw it in the tool box… no one the wiser… accept God!
This time I would try a different approach, instead of taking the transmission out, I would drop the front end 4 wheel drive axle and the steering and just drop the transmission a bit and move it back. I know all this is Greek to most people… but let it suffice to say, it is a load of work. Through the ordeal I found out that my radiator was leaking, and my A/C unit needed another condenser, a new water pump and a bunch of other stuff. But at least I was going to be able to put that “extra bolt” back in properly!
Wouldn’t you know it, while I am waiting for my hernia surgery (soon to be almost a year) I am still without full time work, and all I can do is light work like painting and such… but I still need to get this only vehicle back on it’s wheels! So as I am putting all this back together after putting in new timing chains AGAIN… I start to look for the bolt that I need to put back in. Well I couldn’t find it! I searched for it for days and went through everything 5 times! So, I decided to just buy another one and try putting it in… it didn’t work, I couldn’t get it to go in no matter how hard I tried! I GAVE UP!
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1Thessalonians5:16-18
God, can I get a break here? Well I tell you I never stopped praying, that said, my prayers were getting bitter. I prayed to find the original bolt, I prayed to get the new bold in… I also remember asking God the first time to get that bold in… IS GOD EVEN LISTENING? Well, I am going to shorten this goofy-long story basically to tell you, I fixed this vehicle up 10x better than when I got it… and needed to sell it, just to get my money back… AND PAY MY RENT!
I would like to tell you I did such a good job and… who needs that bold anyway… but I won’t. I put it all back together and ended up with an oil leak so bad I had to take the bottom of my engine off again and fix it. Yes, that meant dropping the front end and the steering. But like I told my wife who thought I was nuts, if I had an employee who did such a job and ended up with an oil leak… I wouldn’t pay him until he did it right! So, I told myself to get my “no good for nothing keister” back under there and fix it!
I did. I felt good about doing a good job. Still broke, but I did the right thing, and I can even feel good about selling it! So, after all was done I put all my tools away in their respective tool boxes, and all the parts and containers picked up… what do you think I find laying in my driveway… with nothing else around? The original transmission bolt! WHY?? At this point who cares? Well, apparently God does! I did manage this time to get the original bolt into the transmission… but really, why?
Through all this, not “a word” from God. Nothing changed for me financially, and my original prayers I was trying to wear God out on weren’t being answered. However, God seemed to communicate to me that my original prayer for God to help me get the original bolt in the transmission (prayed over a year ago), was answered… and that communicated to me that every prayer I was praying was being listened to by my Heavenly Father. EVERY PRAYER… even if it meant for Him to allow me to break down and get the opportunity to get that bolt in… as I insisted that He answer, my way, in the first place!
I shared this with my wife… about how we struggle to get our prayers heard, hoping that God will answer… He communicated to us, that each and every prayer is considered before Heaven’s Throne, and His answers are His to make, His way and in His time. As it is with a sparrow that won’t fall to the ground without His presence… there will not be a prayer fall to the ground without His attendance! And if I am going to respect God enough to pray to Him for answers… it is beholding to me to be respectful to offer up prayers that are not rhetorical… and trust God to answer as He pleases.
Both my wife and myself were in tears at this revelation… knowing we can trust God. I told one of my friends this, and he said “Let God be God, He is good at it!” Just so you know, I am not giving up on what I want from God, and I am going to bring my prayer before His Throne daily… but this one thing I will do, with this lesson in hand, is let God be God, because He is most definitely very good at it!
Here is a free book…
Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
“A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.” —Dr. Donald A. Carson (quoted by Jesse Jackson), Carson ascribes this quote to his father, a Canadian minister
So let me offer some “context” to my story… I have seen the hand of God so clearly in my life, that it wouldn’t make a difference to my faith if the Lord appeared to me personally. God took me from being an evil-practicing youth, to personal re-creation… into an evangelist. I have taken my family of my wife and 5 kids, on two road-trips through the USA, Mexico and Guatemala. Not staying once in any guarded compound, we traveled each time in run-down rebuilt 60’s buses.
God has provided more miracles for our survival than I can remember. So if it sounded like I was whining a bit, it was only because I have been getting my way for so long with God, that when He requires me to grow up a bit… and be patient, it comes as a shock. I know that it is only a matter of time before all my prayers are answered, and you can be rest-assured, you are going to hear about it! May God’s richest blessings be yours in Christ Jesus.