Ask & Obey
“Here’s what I’m saying: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open. Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” Luke11:9-13 (The Message)
What if you ask but you don't get?
Off and on over the years I’ve been self-employed. Being self-employed is frequently equivalent to being unemployed. Dry spells when no one is seeking out your services are common. Usually they are also temporary. But from time to time I went through extended dry spells. Very extended. Very dry.
Every day I would pray, ask, seek, knock. Sometimes even bargain a little. And, yes, question a lot.
In an article titled "The Gift of Unanswered Prayer," Jerry Sittser states, "When we pray, we pray not only as saints but also as sinners, very much inclined to use prayer to advance our own selfish interests, even when we pray out of desperation. Prayer for that reason is highly complex. On the one hand, the very act of praying reminds us that we are children of God. On the other hand, that same act of praying exposes us for the fallen creatures we are."
Every time I approached God with my need for work, I was keenly aware of my fallenness and even wondered how much it played into what felt like a lack of response; what felt sometimes like "a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game." And, as I prayed, others I know who had been looking for jobs for years -- as opposed to days or weeks -- came to mind. Shouldn’t I be praying for them? And I did.
Oswald Chambers wrote, "You cannot think through spiritual confusion to make things clear; to make things clear, you must obey." That's easier said than done, especially when it isn't clear what you're supposed to be doing in order to be obedient.
Still, taking the cue from Paul in Ephesians 6, as best I could, having done all I knew to do, I stood in faith looking to God for His provision.
How in the world do you hold on to faith in the face of circumstances that reek with despair? For me, it was possible, even weakly, because I saw the hand of God emerge bright and shining out of the darkest gloom. While many of the prayers I prayed daily seem to "bounce off the ceiling," I knew at least some were being heard, at least in part. I saw tiny evidences of shifts in the lives of loved ones for whom I had been praying. I saw sickness healed, the unemployed hired, and, finally, I saw a slight glimmer of interest in my services. Yet it still got scary.
Chambers also wrote, "Every time you venture out in your life of faith, you will find something in your circumstances that, from a commonsense standpoint, will flatly contradict your faith. But common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense. In fact, they are as different as the natural life and the spiritual."
That's pretty much what it felt like during those long dry spells. I didn’t know what tomorrow held, but I did know Who holds all my tomorrows. Then I didn’t always see light at the end of the dark tunnel, but now, on the other side, I can declare that God always supplied my needs. The dry spells always came to an end!
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