PRAYERS OR PLATITUDES?
Our prayer chain’s caller slowly read the list of current concerns: (1) for a fellow member who was ailing; (2) for our missionary in the Philippines; (3) for a current funding need in our church; and finally for the less fortunate wherever they may be. Trying to discern whether the last request was an ‘add-on’ or part of the original list, I hesitated before I jotted it down.
Later, when I had an opportunity to reflect on the list’s entries, I pondered my role. Did I utter some words of supplication and turn the ‘projects’ over to God? I was acutely aware that God was the ultimate answerer of petitions, but was prayer just an one-way street and therefore, our main task was to turn it over to Him for handling? Seemingly, this concept put God in the role of a Godly Genie awaiting our commands! I recognized what the caller desired of me but what were God’s expectations? As I contemplated this question, I turned the pending prayer list over and roughed out “What God could do” and what I could do? It looked like this:
REQUEST HIS JOB MY JOB
Obviously, the first step was to pray for guidance as to the nature of my ‘assignment’. Reviewing the first request, the member who was ailing, surely I needed to express my sincere concern to God about her need, but what else could I do? A number of potential deeds quickly came to mind: send a get-well-card with a personal note; a cheer-up phone call; the preparing and delivery of one of my famous casseroles; or making an actual visit. All of these were plausible ways of putting my part of the prayer process into action, God’s reply could be healing which only He could effectly perform if He elected to do so.
As I continued down the list, I was reminded that I hadn’t sent our contribution for the “larger boat fund” that would facilitate our missionary’s transport among the many islands of the Philippines. Further, he surely would also appreciate a note of encouragement and a message letting him know he was in my thoughts and prayers. E-mail made the last idea a quick reality.
The third request involved a “current funding need”. Certainly, I needed to request that He open the hearts and wallets of our fellow members, but what about my own?
The last request, ‘less fortunate wherever they may be’ was troublesome to me. Oh, we had made our monthly contribution to the Salvation Army’s Bed and Breakfast Fund, but what else could I do or what exactly was God’s job in connection with this request? Did He really need me to remind Him that there were less fortunate in the world? I finally decided if such requests were too vague for me to request God’s action, they were also too elusive for me! I concluded that unless I could make my prayer request comprehensible to both of us they were more likely platitudes rather than petitions! I put a rather large question mark on both sides of the chart with the exception of a short prayer on my side, “Lord, grant me the vision on how I can be of assistance to the less fortunate in practical ways. Lead me to activities where I can be your hands and feet in this world.” I am awaiting His answer.