I KEEP PRAYING…THEN…GO DO IT
I wake up with good intentions, only by noon, I have yet to ask some one to help me with my problem. The day goes by and I am still where I was the night before because I did not follow through with my good intentions. I prayed, but that was all I did. I started the day with a lack of faith, in myself, and in those that could help me. I was afraid of being turned down. It is a sick feeling when I presume to fail before I do. What would Jesus recommend for my cure?
Jesus’ disciples had a similar attitude and Jesus’ prescription was, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Mt. 7:7-12).
I, along with way too many believers, have the notion that if we believe and ask, God would step in and take care of our problems. I even have been accused of having insufficient faith. Of course, I lack in faith and so does everyone else. Prayer, for me, has never resolved a problem and I do not think it was intended to do so. Rather, prayer equips me and strengthens my will to attempt a solution. It made me humble enough to turn to others for help. It is after I have prayed that I go and find people who can help me resolve my difficulty. Unless we do ask, seek them out and knock on their doors to get a hearing, we shall be left stranded. The order that Jesus used may not be the one we need to follow. I, for instance, had to find the people, then knock on their door and ask or even beg them to help me. This has not been the approach to help only myself, but also to serve others. Like the Good Samaritan, I should keep my eyes open to some one in trouble (Lk. 10:25-37). This is also true of preaching the gospel. The disciples were specifically told to enter those homes that welcomed them (Mt. 10:11-14) and they were to be careful not to throw the words of salvation or precious pearls before humans who behave piggish (Mt. 7:6). There is a reason why Matthew has Jesus caution precede the asking, seeking and knocking.
I also had to learn to swallow my disappointment when my search did not immediately pay off. At times, patience came close to wearing me out. A little girl, about nine years old, colored a picture of a cat hanging from a limb off a tree for me. Underneath was this inscription, “Hang in there, Baby!” I hung it in several offices as I moved across country and later in our home. It is so much symbolic of what real life is about. The little girl was from a broken home. Their father left his second wife and dumped her and her sister on her. Then he was running around on his motorcycle with a girl less than half his age. He told the girl that the children were hers and not his, the truth was that all the children were his from two women. The little girl was that cat which hung on, and so was I when I had to hang on for dear life, before I could be treated for severe burns. And the more I hung in, the more hope I projected to myself and to those who were caring for me. Several years after I had recovered, I returned to the place of the accident in order to thank the physician that hung in with me and he was delighted in having had a major part in my recovery. During my hospitalization, I asked many people for help, and not a one refused. In fact, some volunteered and became very attached to me. This was at a time when I could neither seek nor knock. Yes, there was and still is much goodness in the world; but, we must not give up on it. We must also surround ourselves with people that will not shut the door on us. I found most of my help from people that lived the gospel and belonged to the body of Christ or a Church.
It was not the Christians or the world that shut the door on me. It was I that had not made an attempt to belong where one could ask or seek or knock for help. I had not made friends with God or mammon (Lk. 16:9). I focused more on specks in the eyes of others, then on the log in my own eyes (Mt. 7:3-5). Please note that Matthew inserted Jesus’ criticism of judging others, before one abuses God’s word. How can we expect help from people of whom we are critical? In retrospect, I see myself in the young man who came running to Jesus and asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to please you?” That is my interpretation for “how to inherit eternal life?” It is a gift and it cannot be inherited. What is very significant, for me, is Jesus’ statement, “No one is good – except God alone” (Mk. 10:17-18).
Oh, how much better than good is He? He spared me from entering eternity unprepared at least four times, and then gave me a life long purpose to be of service to others for Him. Since, I lost the use of my hands to work, the Lord has enriched my mind to be far more productive than my hands could ever be. In addition, He has blessed me with a loving wife, three sons, three daughter-in-laws, and eight grandchildren. All our physical and spiritual needs have been amply supplied. His goodness and mercy have followed me for eighty and four years (Ps. 23:6). At times, when I did more for myself than for Him, He did not withhold his blessings from me. “He causes his sun to shine on everyone, good or bad; his rain falls on the just and unjust” (Mt. 5:45). He loves all his children; particularly, those that stray or procrastinate. I had specialized in procrastination. I had to learn that it was better to lose the use of my hands, than to lose my soul (Mt. 5:30). As long as I had the use of my hands, I had no intention of becoming a minister of the gospel. I was very much like that young man that came running to Jesus, I too had kept from my youth all the commandments, but I was not willing to follow Jesus as Lord. I had been invited many times and knew that I should have dedicated my life to the Savior, but I kept walking away. People praised me to my father for being an upright and well manner young man; but in my heart, I knew what was missing.
There was another young man I felt related to. We know him as the, “Prodigal” or “Lost Son” (Lk. 15:11-32). I ran away three times from home because I could not get along with my father. He used coercion to subject me to his belief and work. For my first twenty–one years, I worked mostly for my father. When father became too angry, even mother helped me leave. He would always mellow and asked me to come back and things would improve somewhat. The third time, I found work with friends and they were willing to keep me; but, father did need me desperately to work the farm. Unlike the “Prodigal,” I received nothing that I could waste on loose living. Like the “Lost Son,” I too realized why I was working for others, when I could end up with a farm all my own. I was the only son that was physically able to take over the farm from the leaseholder and purchase it as my own. I just did not want the farm and immigrated to Canada to find my own fortune. I ended up in a chicken coupe, among a people I did not understand in culture or language. I worked on two farms and then in two lumber camps. By then, I was praying hard for the Lord to send me back home to my farm in Germany and return me to the people that had electricity, beds, and bathrooms. I had come to my senses; but, too late. On the second job in the woods, I lost the use of my hands and could no longer return to farming. I was not as fortunate as the Prodigal. I had no home to go back to, and I was of no use to my father. But, what was more painful was that my father could no longer count on me. He gave up his farm to come to Canada and start a new life with me. And it was at this point, that my prayers of asking, seeking, and knocking helped my folks settle in a home with me in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It became our home while I finished High School as an adult, College, Seminary and I even got married. I had come home to my folks and to the Lord Jesus, the Christ. I did not stop with prayer and waited for someone else to do it for me.