Archive for July, 2012

A Little Help?

Posted: July 30, 2012 by clairer in Contentment, Prayer

When I was six or seven years old, my Sunday School teacher used to tell us to pray with our hands open and outstretched so that we could “accept God’s blessings.” The problem was, when we finished praying, my hands were always still empty. So much for receiving God’s blessings. One week, I had had enough, so I came up with a brilliant plan. While we prayed with eyes closed, I held out my one hand — open and outstretched — but then used the other to slide my quarter for my tithe offering into my open hand. Then, when I opened my eyes – voila! There was a quarter there! I was so smug and proud of myself. There you go, God, I thought to myself, I helped you out…this time.

Obviously, it wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that my Sunday School teacher didn’t expect money to magically appear in my hands and that the blessings I was praying to receive weren’t necessarily coming in the form of quarters or any other type of money. Now that I’m older, I obviously don’t think I need to help God out answering my prayers…or do I?

Over the past twelve or thirteen years, it’s true, I no longer put quarters into my hands during church to substitute for God’s blessings. But I think little kids often reflect the same things that we do as adults…we just hide it better now.

The Bible is full of stories about people who felt that they needed to “help God out” in fulfilling the promises that He made to them. Sarah, for example, told her husband Abraham that the heir that God promised to him would have to come through her slave, Hagar, since she herself was too old. Saul, when preparing to go into battle against the Philistines, offered sacrifices to God himself after giving up on waiting for Samuel to come to perform the sacrifices on his behalf. Aaron and the Israelites chose to make a golden calf “god” after waiting for a long time for Moses to return from meeting with God on Mount Sinai.

In all of these instances, things didn’t turn out so well for those who lost patience, and on this side of our Bibles, it often looks foolish for these people to have taken matters into their own hands. God had just promised Abraham many descendents in Genesis 15! How could Sarah lose faith by Genesis 16? It was only one chapter!

But, all of these individuals were tested by waiting – whether it was seven days or ten years – and all of them ultimately failed to wait patiently. They decided that God needed some help…just like me with my quarter.

I think we all still do that today, even as “fully modern” adults. We pray for something – maybe direction or provision – and when we seemingly get no answer, we lose patience and take matters into our own hands. This is the basic idea behind the old saying that “God helps those who help themselves.”

And while it’s true that, to an extent, we shouldn’t sit back and expect God to plop plans and provisions into our laps while we lounge on the couch and watch TV, I think we often lose patience with waiting on God far too easily.

As Christians, we need to cling to the truth that God never misses our prayers like we tend to miss calls or emails. He hears each and every one of our prayers and he answers them all. Sometimes He gives us an immediate yes or no. Other times (and more often than not), though, it’s simply “wait.”

God isn’t making a mistake when He tells us to wait. It’s not like He is caught off-guard by our requests and has to make up His mind while we wait. God’s timing is perfect and He will move in His timing, not ours. In the meantime, God uses that waiting time. That waiting teaches us to trust His plan. It builds our faith in Him as we put aside our plans and our timing in favor of His.

Is it fun to wait? No…not usually. But it’s worth it. God’s plan and timing is always better than our cheap substitutes. God answers our prayers in ways that we can’t even imagine. He doesn’t need our help. We just often need to be content to leave our outstretched hands empty until He chooses to fill them His way.