Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Grocery List Prayers - Midweek Meditation

Prayer is vital. It is the breath of the soul, the secret of spiritual power, the life-giving communion between an almighty God and mortal man. But for what do we spend the bulk of our time praying?

Often I have found my prayers sound a bit more like a grocery list than a conversation between a loving Father and His daughter. I'm sad to say, but they have sounded something like the following...

Dear Father,

Please grant me ...

1 ideal parking spot

6 good deals on plane tickets

2 hours of peace this afternoon

1 missing set of keys to be found

1 husband to pick me up on time

3 lone half-pairs of shoes to find their mates

enough money to complete our adoption

and so on...

And there's nothing wrong with praying for any of those things. But sometimes when we pray, we run through our list of wants/needs and stop there. We don't go deeper.

In Matthew 6, in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches His followers how to pray. He mentions physical needs oh so briefly. In fact all our bodily needs are summed up in one little sentence. "Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11. He requests enough provision for one day only. This day. Today. In fact, later on in the sermon (chapter) He encourages us to not make our physical needs our main focus at all. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" Matthew 6:25. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33.

In the early part of the 1900s an American missionary named Gladys Aylward was scouting out new territory to evangelize in China. A Chinese doctor, a recent convert, accompanied her as her guide. As they traveled from village to village, Gladys taught the doctor more about Jesus. His devotion to Jesus grew. Together, Gladys and the doctor, shared the love of Jesus with those they met in the villages.

One day their travels took them into a wilderness area. Gladys and the doctor walked the whole
day without seeing anyone. Where were they? Towards evening Gladys feared they were lost. She began to worry. What would they eat? Where would they sleep? Finally, overwhelmed, she announced that they should drop to their knees and pray right that moment. Gladys began. "Dear God, have mercy on us. You can see what a plight we are in. Give us food and shelter for the night." She continued praying, filling her entire prayer with a list of their immediate needs. When she had finished, the doctor began. Very calmly he prayed, "O God, send us the one You want us to tell about Jesus. We have witnessed to no one today, but You have sent us here for some special purpose. Show us where to find the man You intend to bless." Gladys Aylward, missionary to China, was humbled and ashamed. She later wrote, "While I had been so concerned with my own comfort, this man was concerned only with His Father's business."

It wasn't long before a lone man was spotted on a nearby hillside. The doctor, sure that the answer to his prayer had just arrived, dashed off to share the good news of the gospel. That lone man turned out to be a Tibetan lama priest who invited the two of them to come to his lamasery and share the message of Jesus Christ with over 500 other lamas. Gladys and the doctor spent an entire week with them teaching them about God. Incidentally, their physical needs were provided for during that time as well.

Since reading this story, my prayer life has changed drastically. The bulk of my daily prayers are now, "Lord, give me someone to share Your love with." It's been amazing to see how God has answered.

Today, I challenge you to ask God to give you someone with whom to share the gospel. You won't ever be the same again.

By the way ...

If you're interested in learning more about the amazing life of Gladys Aylward, check out these resources. The middle one is a DVD for kids. My girls love it!