Sometimes I feel like a contestant in series of TV game shows. Just recently, for example, I had to choose between two different options for a major change in my life. For those who used to watch the show “Let’s Make a Deal,” it was like Carol Merrill offering the prize behind Door #1 or Door #2. The contestant must select Door #1 or #2 without knowing what’s on the other side of the door. It could be a new car, it could be a monkey, it could be a $1 bill. And so the person chooses, hoping they’ve made the right choice – but afraid that when the door is opened, everyone will know they made the wrong choice.
Now I was that person staring at Door #1 and Door #2.
Make a choice, and make it soon. The choice that hopefully aligns with God’s will for my life. Did it really matter in the long run whether I chose #1 or #2? I didn’t know…because I couldn’t see the other side. It could be a very important choice, or a totally inconsequential choice. But because it had the potential to impact several other people, I wanted to choose wisely, as God would have me choose.
And so…..I went with “Phone a Friend” (yes, from “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”). When all else fails, I call on my prayer partner. We don’t live close, but thanks to the wonders of technology, we can be in touch at a moment’s notice. I explained my dilemma, the pros and cons of my options, and my desire for God to guide me. Actually, it was more like “I need clear direction as to the right option. You know…..a lightning bolt this weekend would be nice.” Funny how cavalier we can be when approaching the Almighty. “Hey God, how about telling me your will for my life – oh, and let me know in the next 2 days – and send a lighting bolt or something else unmistakable to be sure I don’t miss it.” I’m lucky He didn’t hit me with a lightning bolt right then!
Prayer partners are wonderful, because when you feel lost or hopeless, you know you’ve got someone in your corner pulling for you. Someone lifting you and your issues up to God even when you can’t. And so I went about my life, knowing my prayer partner was doing her part. Waiting…..
It’s at this point that I need to tell you a lesson I learned on prayer many years ago. I lesson taught by a toilet.
I was living in a house of 8 women…and 2 bathrooms. And as inevitably happens, one of our two toilets….ahem…..well let’s just say it no longer flushed.
All our attempts at flushing it were met with threats of great flooding. You get the idea! We tried everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. Nothing worked! We had no money for a plumber. We were stuck. Finally, when we were truly desperate, one of our group suggested praying over this stopped up porcelain beauty. Because God wants to meet our needs, right? And if ever there was a need, this was it! 8 women and only one functioning toilet is a disaster if ever there was one! So after much anxiety, one of us, I don’t remember who, suggested we pray over the toilet. We all gathered around, and just as we were about to pray, a shred of doubt began to fester. There was one camp – “Isn’t this sacrilegious? To pray over a toilet?” And the other camp “We can bring ANYTHING to God – He cares for our needs, and this is a NEED if ever there was one!” Ultimately, the latter camp won. We prayed and we prayed. And then we flushed. And the water….well…..it rose and rose and rose. It reached the very rim and threatened to go all over the floor and down into the basement apartment under our house. And then one of the “Let’s pray” camp sighed “I guess God’s not going to fix our toilet after all.”
We had reached the end of our faith.
But just then it happened! All of a sudden, it cleared with a huge WOOSH, and all was well. And thus the lesson I’ve never forgotten, the one taught me by a toilet….God answers prayer, but sometimes He brings me to the breaking point in my faith to show me I can trust Him more – sometimes I give up too soon.
Back to my original story. There was no lightning bolt or flaming arrow or even as much as a smoke signal that weekend. The little voice of doubt was whispering in my mind that God wasn’t going to provide clear direction after all. I was just going to have to make a decision and hope God would intervene if I did something really stupid.
I had reached the end of my faith.
A week later it happened. A conversation – not at all what I’d expected. Someone explained to me why Door #2 was not only right – it was good for me and good for others in ways I hadn’t imaged – that I hadn’t even dreamed were possible. Suddenly all the fog cleared and the path forward became brutally obvious. Of course – it had to be Door #2.
I went on my way, relieved to have a plan. I shot a quick note to my prayer partner telling her I would go with Door #2. She replied…..”So, was this the lightning bolt we were praying for?” And then I realized…she was right! I needed clear direction. I prayed for clear direction. But I didn’t expect to get such clear direction. To avoid disappointment, I’d reduced my expectations to hoping for a mere hint as to which choice to make. I’d given up on God answering in the direct way I’d asked. But He did. And because I wasn’t expecting it, I missed it!
I wonder how many other answers to prayer I miss because I don’t live expectantly? Or I expect, but not very much? And if I were to spend my time waiting, really looking, how many other answers to prayer would I see? Not because there were more answers, but because I was looking for them?
And at that moment I realized another benefit of having a prayer partner. Not just someone to lift me up in prayer, but someone to help me see when my prayers are answered. God answered my prayer in a way designed just for me, and He didn’t want me to miss it. So He used my prayer partner’s words to point it out.
How about you – Has your confidence that God would answer your prayers ever fizzled out too soon? Do you have a prayer partner? If not, how do ensure you see all God’s answers to your prayers?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments – and especially if you were one of my housemates praying over the toilet that day!