I love it when stuff just sort of falls together in a way that you KNOW it is God working in your life. And for me, it needs to be pretty obvious or I might not catch on. We had VBS last week and it was crazy chaos and really amazing. But on the heels of my last blog post I was so encouraged by the Bible lessons. The ones intended for the children. One of their verses for the week was actually the verse I quoted in my blog post, just days before. "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world." And then the same or similar passages have been repeatedly popping up in my reading, and even on Facebook, and I know God is speaking to me. I have trust issues, apparently. Imagine that.
Today's sermon was on prayer. I pray. Quite a bit actually... it is the breathing in and breathing out of my days, but most of my prayers are pretty surface and selfish. Like "Please, God don't let me hurt these children." Or "Please God, provide the necessary funds for our upcoming vacation." (Inspiring, right?) I tell my Gracie she can pray about anything. Even when she has what we like to refer to as "poop issues" because God cares about the little stuff too. (And isn't that what most of our days are made up of? Just an avalanche of "little stuff" that really doesn't seem so little at the time?) So we pray about stuff. All kinds of stuff. I pray for God to hold my tongue (or fingers) when I am about to "give full vent to my anger" (it sounds more spiritual if you use scripture to say it, I think.) I pray for people I know are hurting, I even pray for people who don't like me (another vbs lesson-and likely future blog post- that I needed to hear) So I do a lot of praying. But when it comes to praying for myself, at least on a deeper level, I have this suspicion that maybe He isn't going to grant my request, or maybe I just don't deserve it, and so maybe I'll just save myself the disappointment and not ask. Because deep down, I still have this feeling like I'm the screw up that He graciously tolerates, not the daughter he passionately loves.
I know what you're thinking. Kari, you should really know better than that. And intellectually I do. Theologically I do. So when Pastor Mark opened his mouth this morning, I felt like God was whispering right to my heart... "You give up on Me so easily. Ask, and don't stop asking... Seek, and don't stop seeking...Knock, and don't stop knocking. Don't walk away empty handed because you are afraid to ask!"
I just forget sometimes that He doesn't see me as I used to be, or even as I presently am, really... He sees what He created me to be, clothed in the righteousness of Christ and washed clean in His blood. I am the one who still sees the screw-up. The mess. The choices and the failures. The unworthiness. So I shrink back from praying for good things-blessings, if you will-because I assume I don't rate them. As I type the words it makes me sad and even ashamed that I would discount what Jesus did for me in such a self-focused manner. Like I am somehow the one nut He can't crack.
And then the realization that I have been, well, wrong about the whole thing is quite a relief. I think I need to start a prayer journal again. It is hard to forget that He does indeed answer prayers when the proof is right there in black and white.... My memory is short-lived and cannot be trusted.
I do not believe that God is a genie in a bottle, or that He is always going to answer in the way that we set out thinking is best...But I do believe, because it has been true in my experience, that when we pray persistently for anything, He aligns our will with His so that we eventually (not usually immediately, for me) just want what He wants. That it is in the persistence, the continual asking, seeking and knocking that we come to know His heart and trust His plan. And then we can rest assured that whatever the answer is, whether it be yes, no, or simply "not now", we can be confident that He is for us and wants to give us only good. Because He is only good. And that is good news.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:9-13