As a pastor I am often asked to open in prayer at meetings and functions that I attend. Regardless of the setting, regardless of whether or not I am in charge of the meeting or serving as the host of the function, when it comes to prayer, I'm the go-to. Some people even joke that as a pastor I most likely have the greatest connection or probably have a direct line straight to Heaven. Crazy right.
Last night I found myself in just such a situation as I was attending a monthly meeting of a board of directors that I serve on. The head of the board looked in my direction and as he does every month said, "Pastor, can you open us in prayer?" I of course obliged and started into my prayer attempting to remember each of the requests that had been shared. About half way through my prayer I suddenly shifted away from my traditional "list format", you know the one, "God be with...and...and help...and encourage...and....".
Suddenly and without any intentionality on my part I jumped into "God give us the ability to see where you are already answering our prayers. God forgive us for constantly bringing requests to you without ever stopping to look for and see where you have perhaps already answered that prayer. Allow us to see how you are moving even if not in the way we've been praying for."
I said "Amen" and our meeting moved on but for the rest of the night this question stuck with me. "God, how have you already answered the prayers that I have been praying about for so long?" I began to wonder how much time I've spent asking God to show up in areas He's always been present in. I began to wonder how long I've prayed for a result that's already been delivered. Perhaps in my spiritual ignorance I've failed to see where God is already moving. Perhaps I've failed to see an answer that's been right in front of me the whole time. Perhaps I've unconsciously trained myself to only see "the answer" in terms of what I want and think I need.
Everyone loves Matthew 7:7 right. Check it out on Bible Gateway. “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you." But too often we fail to read Scripture in its full context and we miss Matthew 7:7-11 which says, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him."
That last part is crucial. It's our Heavenly Father who knows how to give "good gifts". His definition of good gifts and ours is likely pretty different wouldn't you say? How often do we keep praying for our version of "good gifts" and all the while we've missed His version of "good gifts" that have been right there?
Allow me to encourage you to keep your eyes open and to stay alert to "all possible answers" not just the ones you were hoping for. Let's shift our prayers from "God give me this..." to "God allow me to see your good gifts." Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
"This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. I will rejoice, I will rejoice and be glad in it, and be glad in it. This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made."
As a child, this song (taken from Psalm 118:24) was commonly sung by my mother to me as I woke up each morning. I carried on the tradition for my children when they were younger and still occasionally when I'm in a super good mood in the morning and it's obvious that they're not wanting to get up. (It's borderline exasperation - see Ephesians 6:4 on Bible Gateway. Forgive me Lord.)
I've always loved this song. For me it's a reminder that each and every day is a new opportunity. Sometimes we can get really bogged down with all of the mess we create or perhaps inherit each day. At the end of the day life can feel overwhelming and insurmountable. It's safe to say that our "rejoicing" can be almost nil by the end of the day. We pillow our heads at night and our minds run rampant with all of the junk we've had to deal with throughout the day. We're tired, we're worn out, we have nothing left to give. Darkness sets in and our emotions get the best of us. We're headed towards hopelessness and despair. We manage to close our eyes long enough to get the minimal amount of sleep required to function.
Suddenly there is a crack of light. We're slowly ushered back into consciousness (and sometimes not so slowly if we have young children or an obnoxious alarm clock). As our eyes open we feel borderline refreshed, our perspective has changed, perhaps only slightly but still changed. As we lay in our bed for just a few moments longer we rehearse the day to come, the tough conversations, the long hours that will ensue, the tiny people we're responsible to feed and clothe. If we're not careful, we can quickly return to our feelings of being overwhelmed and outmatched.
Allow me to encourage you in those moments to remember that this is the day that Lord has made. You can rejoice and be glad in it. You can rejoice and be glad in it because you are alive. You can rejoice and be glad in it because you've been offered another chance to impact someone else's life. Maybe that's your kid, maybe that's a co-worker or a neighbor, but you've been given this opportunity for a reason. You can rejoice and be glad in it because you have a fresh start. Yesterday is gone, today is a new day. Yesterday's sins are forgiven. Yesterday's misses are gone. Yesterday's "Well I should have..." are today's "I'm going to..." Today is a new day. You've been granted this day for a reason. Go conquer it. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.