Toilets, Lightning Bolts, and Other Lessons in Prayer's_Make_a_Deal?file=Vlcsnap-596763.png’s_Make_a_Deal?file=Vlcsnap-596763.png

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.

This is about what we looked like – trying to have a little fun in our crisis!

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… 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!

Oh me of little faith!live-expectantly

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! :-)



Faith – Cruising on Auto….

The gift that taught me about faith

THANKS Dear! Fortunately, the gift made up for the card!

I have a new toy! (The Hubbie did great for my birthday!)

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been fascinated with photography.  It started with my first Brownie camera – remember those?  But somehow all I ever progressed to were “point-and-shoot” cameras.

Because I always had one rule – my camera must be convenient.

It couldn’t be heavy, it needed to fit in my purse, it needed to be easy to use.  I wanted artistry that didn’t interfere with my life.  Now don’t get me wrong – point-and-shoot cameras have become pretty good over the years.  But looking at other people’s photos, I know I can do better….a lot better.

If only I had a “real” camera to take advantage of all its features.

the gift that taught me about faithSo I was delighted when the Hubbie got me a “real” camera for my birthday, with lots of lenses, settings,  buttons, dials and other gizmos that attach and plug in….somewhere.  I’m still figuring out where.

Which leads to my next dilemma….how do I use this thing?

Because when faced with a “Kodak moment,” I need to set up the camera to capture my spectacular picture. And for that, using my camera needs to be second nature.

But there’s a major temptation I face, every time I use it.  It’s called….Auto mode.  That evil Auto mode…..

Faith on Auto

Auto Mode – the Great Tempter!

It seems the marketers knew there’d be lots of people like me who want good results, but don’t want to do the up-front work for outstanding results. So they made Auto mode, which essentially turns my camera into just an expensive point-and-shoot model. Trapping me forever in the world of pretty good, but not great….and definitely lacking the competence to work a “real” camera.

What do I need to be competent?  Not much. Actually, I have everything I need – except practice.  Taking the same picture over and over, using different settings – in MANUAL Mode – seeing what works and what doesn’t.  Changing lenses until I figure out how to do it quickly. Over and over. It will happen if I spend the time.

But somehow it’s never “the right time” to practice.  It’s just so tempting to use Auto.  Nikon gave me a booklet on how to set the camera for each kind of picture.  A reference manual.  But how can I see a great shot – and then tell everyone “hold that pose” while I go read the reference manual?  Tell your family that.  Tell a bunch of wiggly kids that.  Tell a sports team to freeze the action for a few minutes. HAH!

But my friend Auto……

Auto is easy.

Auto is comfortable.

Auto makes me look like I know what I’m doing…..even when I don’t!

I love Auto…..

But……only spending time in Manual mode gives me the maturity I want.

I got a bit uncomfortable when a little voice hinted to me that this was like my faith.  

There’s a difference between interest and commitment.  When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient.  When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.  – Kenneth Blanchard

I often wish I had great faith – like Paul, or Billy Graham.  God’s made it clear – God doesn’t play favorites with our faith.  I CAN have great faith, if I’ll get out of “Christian Auto” mode, be willing to roll up my sleeves, work in “Manual” mode and trust God, step by step.

Now Auto mode is not entirely bad.  It’s kind of like training wheels for your bike – supporting you, helping you develop basic skills.  We all need to start in Auto mode.  But we miss out if we stay there.

What does Christian Auto mode look like?  It may be different for you, but here’s what it looks like for me:  focusing only on building and maintaining relationships with Christians, because they support me in my spiritual walk without really challenging me.

Not bad….but if I want to have mature faith, I need to move into “Manual mode”, stepping out in faith and trying new things.  For me, that means focusing on developing relationships with non-Christians, especially those that are “unlovable,” or involved in “the big sins.”  Being their friend, loving them right where they are, in tangible ways so they can see the love of Jesus in me.

Maybe you can relate to that.  Or maybe to these:

Auto: Attending Bible studies, but not reading the Bible myself (other than perhaps looking up some verses for Bible study homework).

Manual – Daily Bible reading and studying – on my own.  Finding one thing each day to apply…..and then applying it.  Reading the Bible all the way through….several times.

Auto – Talking about something I do at church, without ever talking about faith issues.  Or inviting friends to church so they can hear someone else talk about Jesus.

Manual – Learning to talk about my faith in everyday language folks can understand.  Initiating spiritual conversations with non-Christians, that progress all the way from general spiritual topics to helping them commit their lives to Christ.

Auto – adding items to a prayer list.

Manual – routinely getting on my knees for my needs and the events of my day – that one day.  Sharing with others about how God answered my prayers that day.

I have to confess – so often I intend to operate in Manual – but in that last moment, I cave. I resort to Auto.  It’s a day-by-day moment-by-moment thing – so many decisions, each one about whether I’ll step out in faith, or whether at the last minute I’ll say “Maybe next time.” Each “next time” delaying the growth of my faith to maturity, my ability to trust God and capably handle the situations that are coming my way.

So….over the next several months, I’m going to spend a lot of time with my new camera…first in Auto mode, but quickly moving to Manual mode.  Because I want to grow in my photography skills.  And that “evil Auto” button is my reminder that I need to shift into Manual…to gain Maturity.

And when it comes to Jesus?  I’m asking Him for an opportunity each day where I can wade into Manual….for Maturity. My current area of focus is making social connections with those that don’t yet know Jesus – a divine appointment.  I’m excited to see what God will do as I practice trusting Him!

How about you – when does your faith slip into Auto?   Or perhaps you can encourage others with the story of how you were able to step out in your faith?  I’d love it if you’d share your perspective in the comments!