Message of the week: The time to ask
Glen Raley is pastor of the First United Methodist Church at Seventh and D streets in
Marysville. Message of the Week appears on Saturdays.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
We now come to the last word of our acronym, ACTS — Supplication. Asking God for something should happen last on purpose. The first three words: Adoration (praising God for who God is), Confession (When we come into the presence of God's holiness, our own sinfulness is all too evident), and Thanksgiving (An attitude of gratitude encompasses three movements of faith: recognize the gift, acknowledge the Giver, and give thanks), helps us center on his glory and gives us the confidence to come to God and tell him what we need. And, supplication should always be accompanied by expectation.
There's a story in 2 Kings 4:1-7 which illustrates this point. One day the prophet Elisha encountered the widow. She told him that her family was broke and the creditors were coming to take her two sons as slaves. All she had in the house was one small bottle of oil.
Elisha gave her some very odd business advice. He said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Then go . . . pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."
The widow followed his advice. She began pouring the small amount of oil she had into the first jar and then the second and the third . . . . The oil did not quit flowing until the final jar was filled to the brim. Elisha told her to sell the oil and pay off her debts.
There's an important spiritual principle at work here. There are times when God can only bless us to the extent of our preparation. Suppose the widow ignored Elijah's instructions and only got a few jars?
The old saying is true: "If you pray for rain, carry your umbrella."
How we enter into prayer often determines how we leave. If you come half-heartedly and reluctantly, expecting little or nothing, then this is often what you will receive. If you come enthusiastically and eagerly, expecting a blessing, then this is often what you will receive. Of course, God is God, and he is not defined by human limitations.
Our supplication is matched by God’s response. Remember that it is God’s good pleasure to meet our needs. But, we often pray, “Your will be done, and if you have a few moments, I’ll tell you what it should be!” No wonder he answers in one of three ways:
• Yes • No • Wait
Sometimes, we don’t always recognize the answer to prayer when it occurs. We forge ahead to the next request, forgetting how God answered this one. Or we dismiss it to circumstance and happenstance.
One day a man was working on top of a tall barn, repairing the tin roof. Suddenly, he slipped and began sliding towards the edge. He called out in desperation, “God, SAVE ME!” Just as he slipped over the side, a nail caught his overalls and saved him. The man called out to heaven, “Never mind, God, this nail saved me!”
Supplication may be last to do, but it’s a vital part of the ACTS of prayer. This is the place of all places to bring the sorrows, heartaches, anxieties, and concerns of our lives.
Let’s expect great things and acknowledge God’s active presence in our prayers! Amen.