does our generosity stimuate his?
“If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.” Proverbs 21:13 (NRSV)
“ Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'” Matthew 25: 44-45 (NRSV)
When we go shopping, we frequently meet friends and/or associates. However, some time ago I had a very unusual experience when I met “praying self” there! Let me tell you about it. I was in a local supermarket and I heard screams before I could detect their source. But as I wheeled my grocery cart around to the next aisle, there it was; a child with angry tears running down his face screaming “Gimme it, Gimme it!! His mother glanced at me for a moment and as she embarrassedly walked away and the sounds of his pleas slowly diminished. However, I recognized myself in the pleas of that screaming child. He sounded a lot like me sometimes when I pray! I confess at times I’ve been like that willful child when I approached the Lord in prayer. I too have beseeched Him for my wants without any real regard as to whether it was accordance with His will or not!! Has this ever been true of you?
While doing background reading for this devotional I found several studies indicating that over 90% of prayers are of the “I want” variety! Have you ever thought of God’s reaction to our many pleas? Sometimes I visualize God listening to all these expressions of greed exemplified by our “Gimmes”. How weary He must be at the end of the day contemplating all the good things He has sent into our lives but in response He hears mostly requests about our real or imagined needs.
Yet often when our prayers seem to go unanswered we wonder whether He is truly a gracious God! I would suggest that at least part of the reason for our unfulfilled petitions is that we have a tendency to overlook the needs of others in our scramble for satisfaction of our perceived needs and desires. The verses cited above suggest to me that we need to be reminded of the simple biblical quote: “it is more blessed to give than receive”. Further, have our ears become sealed against the message of Proverbs 21:13, “If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.”
I would also suggest that each believer serves a role in responding to the prayers of others. We are after all the hands and feet of God in this world and we frequently act in that capacity whether we are fully aware of it or not. Have you ever experienced the Holy Spirit nudging you to do something special for someone? Although this prompt may seem small, it is nonetheless important. We need to be open to do what we can do – maybe it is just a kind word or some other type of support but it does reflect that we are givers as well as receivers. So if we sometimes feel that our prayers are going nowhere, we need to check our concern for others. Do they reflect God’s? If not, we need to seek a change in our outlook. I am convinced that His response to our prayer requests our concern for others and as our Lord said, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it unto me.' Matthew 25:40 (NRSV)