Marion had those knots in her stomach. You know the kind - when your anxiety is about as high as it can go and you're starting to shut down when you really can't afford to be shutting down? She had a big list, lots of things to prepare and all sorts of relatives arriving soon to join in the festivities for the church's 200th anniversary celebration. Her anxiety had gotten to the point where she couldn't stand it any longer (one of those "Popeye moments," right? "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!"), and she sat down and prayed to God - pleading with Him to take the stress, take the anxiety, and let her function and do her work in His peace. As Marion told me the story tears filled her eyes and she said, "Sally, no sooner had I prayed for God to take that anxiety...and it was gone, just like that!" It was so very obvious that God had made an appearance in her life and helped her in her time of need - it brought tears to my eyes as well.
Now fast forward another week. The celebration was a huge success, you'd think life would've calmed down - but for me it was still going 1000 miles an hour. I still had two big commitments with the presbytery that were weighing heavily on me and I found myself in the exact same spot Marion had been the week prior. I was so overwhelmed with how big my list was and how much I had to do that I was near tears and could hardly function (kind of that "deer in the headlights" place). As I shared this too with the congregation, I wondered aloud, "Why is it that we have to be so totally at the end of our rope before we'll seriously hand things over to God and be willing to receive His help?" I don't have the answer, but that's where I was at.
I sat in my study with my hands outstretched pleading for God to take away the knot that had made its way into my gut. Take it away so I could get to sleep at a decent hour and wake up at a normal one. Not surprisingly, just like Marion it was instantaneously gone.
Over and over God has shown me in my life that He hears and answers prayers - and usually they're answered in the most extraordinary ways! I have absolutely no reason for waiting until things get so bad - and it's not that I don't pray, or that I even didn't pray about the things on my to do list. I just didn't seriously give them over or expect any kind of huge answer. What the heck?!
Today I just happened to decide to listen to a sermon by a Colorado pastor who preached about
prayer. He talked about how prayer is a Christ-follower's go-to answer to everything that goes on in our lives and in our churches. Somehow we think that working harder or talking more or giving a good argument are somehow better, but time and again God keeps showing me how when I give things to Him in prayer - He works things through SO much better than I ever could or would.
I've shared with a few folks how I have programmed into my phone on my reminders, two prayer alerts. The first is at 10:02am - that reminds me every day of Luke 10:2, and so I pray daily for God to send out workers into His harvest - because it's plentiful and we always need more. I pray also right then for my church. Then at noon I get another alert to pray for my elders. I try to pray for each one and their spouse individually, but sometimes it's just a blanket prayer. I share that because I can literally tell when I have slacked off on my praying, especially for my elders. When I've allowed myself to be so busy that I can't even take 10-15 minutes to stop and pray for my elders I can see it in my relationships with them.
Prayer is such a gift when we do it. When we ask God with a heart believing that He is not only listening, but that He will answer our prayers in the perfect way and at the perfect time - conforming our hearts to His, conforming our wills to His. We have no reason to carry anxiety when we approach God and give Him our junk in prayer. What freedom it gives us to continue on in life without worry. We don't have to run away from the tough stuff, we don't have to hide in fear. We don't have to buck up and be superman or wonder woman either. God hears our prayers, knows our hearts, and will lift our burdens as we give them to Him to carry.
One of my favorite verses comes from Deuteronomy 31:8 -
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
I'm so thankful that God continues to show His power and activity in my life, and what a privilege I have of sharing it with others who will hear and be encouraged in their own faith as well. Can't wait to see what's next. :)