First Step or Last Resort?

by Mary

Here’s the truth …

“Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11 NIV).

I did something so unusual the other day that I just had to share it.  I was in the middle of a small crisis, and I stopped what I was doing and prayed about it before continuing on to solve the problem in my human way.  Yes, I prayed about it before I tried everything in my own strength to solve my crisis.

My dad was over, trying to change the brake light in my car.  He removed the bolts to access the panel of lights, but the plastic cover which houses the lights simply would not come off.  According to the manual, you were supposed to be able to pull it off straight towards you while standing in front of it, but it just wouldn’t budge.

We hesitated to get a screwdriver involved, because that just seemed like a disaster of chipping and scratching waiting to happen.  I kept thinking that maybe we needed something more grippy--yes, not sure that’s a word--that would grab hold of the plastic better than our human hands.  It was then that I realized, the only thing better than human hands is God himself!  So, I prayed about it while I ran to get the rubber jar opener from my kitchen.  It was a small prayer, asking God to get that thing off without us breaking it, because we simply couldn’t afford one more car thing in the middle of this government shutdown--yes, we are among those not currently getting paid.  My flat tire a few weeks ago and the subsequent death of my husband’s car battery, along with oil changes for both cars, really had set us back.  So I told all of this to God.

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With jar opener in hand, I pushed forward on the plastic cover while my dad pulled.  Success!  Now, you can credit the jar opener, but I credit God!  Prayer really works.  In fact, I would bet that the jar opener wouldn’t have succeeded if I hadn’t prayed before I used it.  So, how come we usually use prayer as a last resort, after we’ve tried everything we can think of to solve the problem ourselves first? 

We don’t pray, especially around others, because we are intimidated, right?  It seems as though you need to be a Shakespearean scholar in order to pray well:  “Father, art Thou listening?  I come to Thee in utmost peril.  Hither will Thee bend Thine ear?”  People around us who pray seem to have all the right words and all the impressive verses on their tongues that they regurgitate back to God.  But we shouldn’t be praying to impress God.  We should be praying to invite God into our lives.  In fact, God’s Word tells us that He is unimpressed with flowery prayers anyway:  “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them…” (Matthew 6:7-8a NIV). 

 I also think we don’t pray because we are ever aware, thanks to the news and social media, that people have it much worse than we do.  Therefore, we don’t need to bother God with our trivial requests.  But isn’t that being self-centered?  If you think about it, you are supposed to be in a relationship with God the way you are in a relationship with your best friend.  Wouldn’t you tell your best friend about the close parking spot you got at the busy mall or the amazing cookie recipe you tried recently or the great deal you got on boots?  So, why wouldn’t you invite God into your life too? 

I pray for God to move people out of my way on the highway!  I pray for God to bring my daughter through the door after school with a smile on her face.  I used to pray for God to make the students at the end of my school day miraculously quiet so that I could get a moment of peace!  But I also pray for the big stuff, too--for those I know who are battling major health issues or tenuous marriages or job loss, etc. I believe that God is able to make my day better if I give it all over to Him, both big and little things.  I never want to take for granted that I can make my own day run smoothly on my own and in my own strength.  I’m ashamed to admit, though, that even though I really do try to invite Him into everything, it wasn’t my first instinct to go to Him in the middle of my brake light crisis.  I had to remind myself to do it.

God’s Word says that we need to talk to God all the time, not just when we think it’s important enough:  “Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11 NIV).  More importantly, we should talk to God even when all is going right in our world, too: “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise” (James 5:13 NIV).  We shouldn’t just take God all of our problems.  There are times when we are actually filled with joy or excited, right?  Why not celebrate those with God as well?

So, don’t try to be a Shakespearean scholar with God.  And don’t save only the big things for Him.  He wants all of it, the good and the bad.

… and that’s the truth as I know it.

Mary