Psalm 5:3: “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”
In September, we spent some time learning about prayer and devotions as part of your “regular” Agenda at a Deacons’ Meeting. In our post “A Diaconate that Prays Together, Stays Together,” we laid out why prayer is a vital part of the ministry deacons do and how praying together can actually make a diaconate more effective. While it seems counterproductive to spend time praying instead of ‘working’, we discovered together that prayer IS work, and even better: prayer WORKS!
As I sit at my desk and look outside at a dreary, rainy fall day, I am also reminded of something else deacons (and perhaps all Christians) struggle with: HOW to pray. We’re not referring to the words we choose or the items we pray about, but about with what POSTURE we pray. In that verse above from Psalm 53, it would appear that the author knew exactly what attitude we should have when we pray—one of eager expectation. When we come before God in prayer, we are to believe God will hear our prayers and, once offered, that all we need to do afterwards is wait patiently for Him to act.
Well! That sounds pretty easy, right? We pray and God will act. Period. And yet, why do so many of us struggle with this? When we pray, “Thy will be done”, are we giving God an ‘out’? Are we giving OURSELVES an out!? ‘Well, God, this is what we want and what we think needs to happen in this or that situation, but hey, you know best so we’ll let you take care of it, hopefully sooner than later.’ Does that sound familiar, if we’re being honest?
In the ever-popular verse Jeremiah chapter 29:11, we read that God remembers us and He has very good things planned for us to enjoy. But if we keep reading, we see in verses 12 and 13 something that is perhaps even MORE important, and hopeful: if we take the initiative to call upon Him, pray, and seek His presence with all of our heart, He will listen and be found. There in these verses we are reminded of what our part is: to trust and expect Him to act.
As I sit here and ponder what it means to pray with expectation, I am reminded of a story I read a few years back that’s been shared in various places. (I happened to read it in a Back to God Ministries Daytimer!) It goes like this:
There was a small farming community that had been experiencing a terrible drought. The crops were dying in the fields and everyone was very worried because this was how they made their living. The pastor of the local church called a special prayer service for all the people of the town. He asked them to gather in front of the church and spend some time praying in faith that God would send some rain. Many people arrived and the pastor was encouraged by that. As the pastor was getting ready to begin the meeting, he noticed a young girl standing quietly in the front. Her face was beaming with excitement and then he saw beside her, open and ready for use, was a large, colourful umbrella.
As he stared at the umbrella, he felt a bit of shame, but was then filled with hope and encouragement. This little girl’s childlike innocence warmed his heart as he realized how much faith she possessed. Everyone had come to pray for rain, but only the little girl believed enough to bring an umbrella.
“Prayer is asking for rain. Faith is bringing an umbrella.”
Help Us Overcome our Unbelief!
How often are we like the crowd, who pray earnestly for God to act, but don’t fully believe He will or in the way we desire? If you are like this little girl, then God bless you! What would it look like if our diaconate – our churches! – were filled with “little girls” with colourful umbrellas?! That when we pray, we would believe that nothing is too difficult for God and that all things are possible with Him!
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8
In Mark 9, we read a story about a man who asked Jesus to heal his son who was demon possessed. The man asks Jesus to take pity on them and heal his son, “if you can.” (Mark 9:22b) Whoa. Who talks to Jesus like that??!! If you can… !!!! Jesus (of course) replied, “If I can? Anything is possible to him who believes.” (vs. 23) Verse 24 says, “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24 NIV)
Can you identify with that man? If we look at the entire story, we see that this man had brought his son to Jesus’ disciples and they were not able to heal him. So can you blame a guy for being a bit skeptical? Perhaps he didn’t think it was “God’s Will” to heal his son. Or perhaps he was just being realistic, not wanting to get his hopes up. The fact that he brought his son to the disciples shows us that he initially believed they could do something about it, but upon their failure, his trust was waning. He no longer came with ‘eager expectation.’ What redeems this father’s unbelief is his honesty and his humble request to Jesus: “Help me overcome my unbelief!” (vs. 24). He DID believe Jesus could heal his son and he desperately WANTED Jesus to heal his son. All he needed was eager expectation; that Jesus would hear him, and act. Perhaps there are times your faith, my faith, needs to be stronger. And this, too, is something we can ask God for help with, with great expectation that He WILL answer our prayer.
Don’t Delay – Just PRAY!
Something else the ‘umbrella’ exposes is our lack of trust and/or doubt, or dare we say, arrogance and self-reliance? Why do we wait until the “drought” has begun killing our “crops” – our very livelihood – and our hopes along with it, and then pray for God’s help? We take our problems, we do everything we can to fix them and then, when things look overwhelming and beyond our abilities, we call on God to help us.
While this story has been used over and over again in various articles, sermons, and memes, it is a good reminder to grab our umbrella – our faith, hope & trust – when we pray. We are asked to pray with expectation, rather than suspicion or doubt. To pray in faith rather than in desperation and despair. If we are in a right relationship with God and we have the Holy Spirit living in us – guiding us, leading us, convicting us – then we will know God better and trust in Him to provide what we need, when we need it. Psalm 34:15 reminds us: “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.” And in James 5:16 we read: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” These verses tell us that God hears the prayers of those who put their trust in Him and who have a right relationship with Him and God will use your prayers to accomplish His good work. And not because of how we pray or how often, but because of His great mercy and love! (Daniel 9:18)
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:14-15
So next time you pray for rain, don’t forget to grab your umbrella!
HOW ABOUT YOU?
How is your personal prayer life? Do you come before God with an umbrella in your hand when you pray?
What about your diaconate? Could you pray with more eager expectation? Have you done so in the past and seen God move in a big way? Share your story with us!
What about your church? Have you prayed for “rain” and yet, left your “umbrellas” at home? How could your diaconate, and church leadership, equip and empower your members to pray with eager expectation? Again, perhaps you have a story to share where you DID do this and God heard your prayer and acted in His great mercy and love. Let us know! We’d love to encourage other diaconates and churches 🙂