Monday, May 12, 2014

Moved to Prayer

In the days of the exile there was a man.  He was a trusted official, the cupbearer, in the court of King Artaxerxes.  Not a prophet nor a priest, not a worker of miracles or the recipient of them, an important but rather ordinary man.  

In 2014 there was a woman.  She wasn't a prophet nor a worker of miracles.  She was only the recipient of miracles in the most ordinary way; sunrises, newborn babies and the other miracles of life.  She was an important but rather ordinary woman.  
And that man, Nehemiah was moved to prayer.  He was touched by the pain he saw among his people, touched by their broken wall and their burnt gates.  He wanted to help.  He needed God to help him move the pagan king he served to this great work for God.  He didn't pray for a miracle; he begged God simply to hear him.  And why?  Because of God's steadfast mercy and his own fear of God.  He didn't ask for rebuilt walls but for God's favor. Why? Because God said he would gather and restore those who he had scattered if they came to him in obedience
Woman praying in Cristo buen Viaje ChurchAnd that woman, she was moved to prayer.  She was touched by the lost and the poor and the abandoned.  She wanted to help.  She needed God's help. What is one woman against the whole lost world anyway?  She had an idea, a dream, a thought about how to reach them with God's love but she needed a hand, money, support, other people to walk alongside her as she did God's work.  She didn't pray for a miracle; she begged God to hear her.  And why?  Because of God's steadfast mercy.  Because knowing the fear of the Lord, she wanted to persuade men (2 Corinthians 5:11).  She didn't ask God to do the work in an instant, in a night, she just asked for God's favor.  Why?  Because she was confident that if she asked according to his will, she would have the request she asked of him (1 John 5:14-15).

Nehemiah didn't pray for an hour, or a day but for days he fasted and wept and mourned.  But finally rising from his prayer, he went back to his work, carrying, protecting, tasting the King's cup.  There in his ordinary life, his prayer was fulfilled.  The king asked, "Why the long face?" Nehemiah was scared but bravely replied that his face ought to look sad given his people's condition.  The king asked what  Nehemiah was asking for; then his moment came.   Nehemiah sent one more prayer winging heavenward and with a deep breath he asked.  For everything.  For letters, for resources, for power. And the king gave it all to him, because the "good hand" of God was on him.  

And what about that woman?  

I think you have to finish the story.  Because it's your story. You are an ordinary woman with a plan growing inside of you for how to make a difference in a  broken world. You're sad and sick and sorry.  You're not asking for a miracle.  You just need the resources, the support, and the coworkers to make things happen. You're imagining an open pantry at your church, a coat drive for the coming winter, a Bible class at the nursing home, a ministry to take food to families with children in the hospital (check out Matthew's Meals if you are interested). Maybe your dream's smaller, you want to fund an orphan.  Maybe it's bigger, you want to fund an orphanage.  What's to be done?

Pray.  Pray to be heard.  Get your motives right.  Pray inside the will of God.  All the earnest prayer in the world to go to a mission field will go unanswered if it means leaving behind the husband and children God gave you to minister to.  Pray long and hard.  Not for 5 minutes, or even for 5 hours, pray for days or perhaps for weeks.  Then rising from prayer, wait.  That's right.  That's Nehemiah's path. And when the moment comes, the perfect moment, when resources, support and aid are at hand, ask and receive.  

Do I mean that any dream you're dreaming will come true?  Nope.  Sometimes all the asking in the world, all the prayers and all the earnest hopes are dashed.  I've lived that story.  My husband and I once poured every ounce of hope and faith we possessed into a dream that failed.  We were young, arrogant, overconfident, and not ready (in retrospect) to take on all that responsibility. Paul lived that story too.  He wanted to go to Bithynia in the worst kind of way, but God's plan was Macedonia.

But I've lived the other story too.  I've been a woman broken by the lost, praying for the chance, stepping out on faith (with one more breathed prayer) and like Nehemiah drinking the cup down to the dregs. I'll be her again by God's grace.  Will you?  Pray. 


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