Monday, July 7, 2008

Day Thirty Six: Instead of a reality check, how about a sovereignty check?

I received a heartfelt email last night from one of our participants. She's concerned about how we'll end these 40 Days--about the panic that can jump on us as the days wind down and the answers to our prayers still seem miles (or even lifetimes) away. I'd planned on posting on how to fend off this onslaught anyway, but her email reminded me to clarify a few things, lest you guys feel abandoned in such a vulnerable time.

First, let's take a minute to look at what this 40 Days is (and isn't). We're in the home stretch of an intensely focused season of faith. The way we've lived for these days is not meant to be the new "normal." Rather, it's a season where we've put other things aside to seek God in a certain way. Now, understandably, we can think that if we haven't seen our prayers answered yet (and I'm in this category myself--as excited as I am about the answer to my "where do I keep my costume jewelry?" prayer, that's not what I came into this 40 Days looking for!) we need to re-up and do 40 more. Thankfully (says the girl who will be VERY excited to see sugar in her coffee again come Saturday) I don't think that's how it works. Just because we haven't seen his answer yet doesn't mean God hasn't heard our prayers, or that his answer is no.

If you've read my book, you know that I ended my first 40 Days of Faith experience--where I prayed DILIGENTLY for a husband--with nary a man on the horizon. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. And then a complete Mr. Wrong came along, and I assumed he must be from God because he showed up and asked me out. ACK! Major detour. But miraculously, through all of this, Jesus kept me sorted out. I made mistakes, but he always got me back on course--because I gave him permission to work in my life. And when he finally answered my prayer for an awesome husband, trust me--I didn't quibble about the timing!

The truth is, I'm not sure I've EVER seen an answer to one of my big prayers during the actual 40 Days of Faith. It may happen yet, so I'm not discounting the possibility. But I want to make crystal clear that if your answer isn't here by midnight Friday, that doesn't mean you've done something wrong, or that God said no. This isn't Cinderella.

Timing is something that's up to God--it's in his authority to make those calls, not ours. That's part of what makes him God.

This brings me to what my role has been in this 40 Days. Last night's email asked me to become more involved in the comments this week if I had the time. I'm so sorry if my silence has come across as not caring or having time for how this is going for you guys--in fact, just the opposite is true. I check the comments several times each day. I pray for you, asking Jesus for the help only he can give. I've often started to respond to a comment, only to feel God telling me, "Stop..." Because the truth is, there's no advice I have to offer anyone, other than, "Try Jesus--he can help." That's been the whole point of these 40 Days...not my great advice, but actual spiritual power from the living God.

If we let him, Jesus can get (and keep) each of us on track to God's best for our lives. He's the link between us and the answers we're looking for; I'm just the girl standing by the side of the road with one of those "Scenic Attractions" signs: Jesus does Miracles--Turn Here! Anything else I'd offer would be merely my opinion, which is an entirely different thing (and not, in my experience at least, particularly helpful when the deepest desires of our hearts are hanging in the balance.) That's why I've kept quiet. But please know that I'm there, reading, praying, and asking God for his miracles, right along with you.

So here's the take home for today: we're in the home stretch of our marathon--let's enjoy it and finish well. The crowd is cheering; random strangers hand us cups of water when we need it most; we see the finish line off in the distance and can't quite believe we've made it this far. The truth is, none of us will know what these 40 Days "mean" in terms of our lives for quite awhile. Stuff takes time. (How's that for a profound theological truth?)

Here's what we can know, though: God is alive, working, active in each of our prayers, in ways that are bigger than what we see in front of us. That's what the Apostle Paul meant when he said that God is able to do "exceedingly, abundantly above all we can ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us... " That power is Jesus, and we can't imagine what he's up to. This is a good thing :)

Today's reading: Acts 20. Paul literally bores someone to death, and then brings him back to life. That always makes me laugh. And I think this warning from Paul is important:
"I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number, people will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!"

We all need to be on guard, and know the truth so we'll recognize counterfeit offers to answer our prayers. There is real truth, and we can know it. I've heard that that's what sets us free :)

Today's song: Check out Romans by Jennifer Knapp.

P.S. If you want to email me about finding relevant Bible verses to pray into or questions along those lines, that offer still stands! I just wanted to clarify here why I haven't been posting in the comments.


Gretchen said...

Thanks, Trish, for the encouragement. I'm one of those who has never had a 40 Days prayer answered (not only in the 40 Days time period, but EVER). This past week I've been battling a huge discouragement cloud, and thinking through what I would do if God doesn't come through (couching the results, as it were). It's been tough to turn away from me fixing the problem of God not answering and turning toward hoping and believing. It's been great to see answers to other people's prayers, and it's been good for me to be honest with God about where I feel I don't like Him or His answers or how difficult it is to trust Him and to be vulnerable in this space. Thanks for routing us on!

Liza said...

Thanks for the reminder that I'm not on my time, but God's time(which I know, but sometimes would like to hurry up). This 40 Days of Faith has gotten me to pray more each day and to read my Bible again. I'm still waiting for my husband, but know that I can wait for God's perfect timing.

Kwana said...

Trish, thanks for the wonderful post. I've had seen a major prayer answered with my daughter but it is one that brings up more questions. Also one big prayer that I have been praying for a very long time is still unanswered. But I know it has to come in God's time and in the meantime I still need to just keep working and walking in faith. Continuously doing my best because as the saying goes: "faith without works is dead." That has been tough for me because I find myself sitting still and just waiting way too much and nothing changes or happens then.
This journey has been wonderful for me. I have not been anywhere close to perfect. The sugar thing fell way short and I have not followed all the bible readings. But I have gotten back into my own bible reading by reading from psalms just about everyday and loving it. It has helped my prayer life so much and I am so grateful for that.
Thanks so much to you all.

Larramie said...

Absolutely perfect, Trish, we couldn't have asked you for more. :)

And my prayers go out to you as well.

the teacher said...

i don't even know how to start today's prayer had not been answered as i thought it had. i forgot who it was that wrote to me the other day; as much as i didn't want to hear it, it was true. i had many doubts about my ex and i getting back together. on paper he is amazing. he loves me more than i have ever been loved, but something is just not right. i got very angry as i prayed for God to show me what was right. i wasn't listening. it doesn't do much good to ask and not listen. i do have peace now that we are not together. i am VERY upset knowing that i hurt someone deeply. however, it put me back in a place where i am not selfishly awaiting God to answer me in the 40 days that i picked out. i will take this man long as he is right. i wanted it to be him and couldn't understand why this loving, compassionate man couldn't be my prince charming. that only makes me anticipate the incredible person God has chosen for me. what a great feeling!

as for the 40 days...thanks to everyone for their prayers; please know all of you are in mine. thanks trish for the encouragment to keep us going. when it comes to the bible, i am more of a self-help kind of gal, so i am very happy that i have branched out and found more inspiration in other parts of the bible. keep up all of the hard work and try not to get discouraged. God has amazing things planned for all of us. i know i need to give him more credit than i have for the things and experiences he has given me through this time.

heiress said...

Trish, you are absolutely right. God does not want us to look to you as the answer to our prayers. So, I would agree and say that it was a good thing that you didn't comment. People tend to panic and become attached to the messenger and not the message.

Your role here was to advise us to TRY JESUS, because only He can answer our deepest prayers.

God showed me who my mate is over three years ago and so many things have happened that I kept a journal during this time and it has helped me to look back and see how God has worked in my life and his life as he works behind the scenes to join us together. I continue to pray and thank God for the answers to my prayers.

So you're right it's not our timetable it's God's and he has the divine time set to make all things happen.

Kim said...

I'm keeping you all in my prayers too. Hang in there everyone.

Larramie said...

the teacher wrote: "i forgot who it was that wrote to me the other day; as much as i didn't want to hear it, it was true. i had many doubts about my ex and i getting back together."

I was the one who wrote, knowing you didn't want to hear my observation but fearful you were in a revolving door relationship. Your former boyfriend has potential, yet that usually falls short. God's choice for you will be the real deal on paper and in person.

blessedsubstance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blessedsubstance said...

Hi I'm checking in. My prayer time has revealed to let go and let God. I've envisioned myself jumping off a high cliff diving into a vast ocean. My challenge is to trust that God will calm the turbulent waters and guide me safely into peaceful waters as I return to the surface unscathed. I have to trust that I don't need a security net. I just need to trust that He knows what He is doing and is in total control over my future if I will allow Him. I am standing at the edge of the cliff peering down. I am about to take my big bold leap of faith and trust that as I leap I can mount up with eagle's wings dive with perfect precision and land in the bountiful arms of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sarakastic said...

The part of your book where you thought the guy was the one because he "showed up" really resonated with me. I tend to do that, way too often. Instead, I'm trying to take a step back & think "Is this job/boy/whatever that showed up ya know good for me?"

Stephanie said...

I think the great thing about this 40 Days of Faith is just remembering that God is listening and hearing our prayers. While I realize that my prayer may not be answered in the time frame I want it's just nice to be reminded that I'm not in this alone.

ForstRose said...

I believe this time hasn't been and won't be a vain pursuit even if my prayers aren't answered.

Trish I agree with your reasoning for not posting comments.

God wants us to draw closer to Him and desire a deeper relationship so that we will continue to draw closer even beyond this 40 days. If that has happened as it has for me in even the smallest sense then although the prayers I started out with may not have been answered yet when day 40 rolls around that is beside the point as I am growing with my Lord and turning to Him for fulfillment instead of things that I desire but that will not truly satisfy. That doesn't mean they aren't good dreams or right dreams or even that they won't ever come to fruition but simply that as Trish says the timing is His deal not ours. If they don't ever happen then I have to recognize and acknowledge that what I was hoping for isn't His best for me but I also have to trust that He can and will change those desires to fall in line with His best for me if they aren't already.

Again I think the verses from Psalm 37 apply. If I am delighting in Him (seeking my fulfillment in the only place it can be found - God) then He will give me the desires of my heart (these desires will be not only His best for me but His plan for me because I am focused on Him not on worldly measures of success or worth).