Saturday, August 23, 2008

Slippin' & Slidin' in Prayer

Looking at Psalm 73 with me...

Recently, I received a note from an ICCS alumni. She had asked for prayer as she has been seeking a life partner and there are not too many possible prospects around her area.

As she put it, “My desire for a husband and children grow exponentially each day. It feels terrible. I have met and had experiences with more jerks than I think is fair or possible. My faith regarding my ever getting married is at an all-time low. At this point, I feel that it would be easy for me to settle. Not to mention the pressure from family (parents) and friends to get married already. My younger sister is happily married with 2 kids--I won't even speak of the jealousy issues that I now contend with. Please pray for me. It is tough being a black woman in her 30’s with loads of education--there just seems to be NO eligible men anywhere. My choices ... seem(s) to be the following: an ex-con, a bisexual man, a married man, a criminal, an unbeliever, a playboy, or an all-around jerk. Help a sister, please Pastor Stan--what gives?”

She asks some good questions. Is she alone in this? I don’t think so. It is not only for Black single women in their 30s, but from a host of different people with some very deep and pressing question: i.e.: 
Does God answer prayer?

She asks again: "Thank you. I finally feel like someone told me the truth. Everyone keeps giving me the "I feel so sorry for you" look, the pats on the shoulder, the "he's out there" pep talk. Inside, I am doubting that he is one day and hopeful that he is on other days. Pastor Stan, if I ask God for something for so long and it does NOT happen..what does that mean? Doesn't God want me to have a husband? Why am I the one who has to wrestle with lust, loneliness, and more? And, my singleness keeps me in a tailspin about my faith and belief in God.
Am I now at 30 supposed to give up hope of having a husband?
Do I now go and join a convent?
Doesn't it say ask and you shall receive?"

I sent her Psalm 73 and other advise back to her. Could I share with you some of what I find to be true concerning prayer? ...not just for the single woman looking for a husband but also for any other person who asks God for something and all is silent.

The Psalmist sees the problem, doesn’t he? He sees that this God we worship here today is a GOOD GOD and that He is good to those who are pure in heart.  

He writes: 2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

This man slips and almost lost his foothold on life. Ever do that? Slipping is natural in this world. ESP when the ground is wet or when the situation is dangerous. When there are difficult decisions to make.

This ‘slip’ he experiences is not a sinful practice he falls into. No, it is when he looks at the evil around him and envies them over his own life. When he takes his eyes off of Jesus. 

Remember that it is not about us! It is about Him.

She asks: Did I hear wrong? Is God punishing me?

First, once you ask for forgiveness, it is over.  He does not use that against you now.  It is over and forgiven.  

This also does not mean she is lost. It might mean that the MALE population out there are in a collective hole in the ground and need some major spiritual growth to get them to a place where they can hear and respond to God's calling for a Godly life-style. Don't let their lack of Heart for God drag you below their level.

Her confession of being married in three years sounds like someone was not hearing the voice of God on her behalf. Again, don't fall away because life has turned out harder than you were told it would be. (I wondered who told her she were going to be married? Was it in prayer, a fellow sister, from within her heart of hearts? Really, it does not matter so much were it came from--she believed it and now that the three-year mark is over, she doubts. Very normal.)

Our hopes and dreams and desires are all in one package, isn't it? We feel that if we please God, He will reward us. If we walk His Way, all will turn out grand. We can find verses to support that but reality and other verses show us that it is not about us. It is all about Him. What, in life, gives Him Glory? What puts things in His Eternal timetable? How does He gain? Sorry to say that some have been preaching that if we 'only believe' the BMW (husband, money, fame, health, clean skin...whatever) will be ours in Christ Jesus.


"All that we ask or think." Christ Jesus. That is the rub! Again, we know that He does answer prayers but for somethings it never seems to happen! What is He doing with this request? Has He forgotten about it? (No, we know He doesn't forget.) Has the game plan changed? (No, He still wants us to walk in a way that brings Glory to His Name.) Are we fooling our hearts into thinking that all will be well with our life no matter what happens? You answer that.

She asks us to pray for her:
1. That God would strengthen my friendships and send me friends and Godly relationships in my area.
2. That God would give me a clear vision and that I would be obedient to that vision.
3. That God would send me a husband and/or help me to get understanding of my desire for a husband.

(Would you please pray for her and the many like her right now?  Thank you...)

The important thing is hard to remember: It is all about HIM! He is NOT toying with us! These are real issues..real hurts...real pain. And He cares!

Does my desires mean more to me than my relationship with God? Does He have His way in my life? Can I really be happy in my relationship with God dispute the surrounding situations?  Look at Proverbs 23:17-18.  Does this sound like you?
Two weeks ago, in the handout, David printed a short portion of Eric Liddell’s experience in an internment camp in China. Liddell is quoted: 
“Love is never glad when others go wrong. Love finds no pleasure in injustice, but rejoices in the truth. Love is always slow to expose, it knows how to be silent. Love is always eager to believe the best about a person. Love is full of hope, full of patient endurance; love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:6-8.

Well, is that true or not? If it is not true than throw Christian faith out the window and don’t even consider Faith in God.

In case you missed it, let’s look at the Psalm as a whole and see what Asaph faces...along with us...the truth about life and death!

Verses 1-2
This seems to be the case of God blessing those who trust in Him but the author doesn’t see it. The eyes of his heart is on himself. “ALL for them but not for ME.”

Verses 4-11 is what he sees:
… they have no struggles
… healthy bodies
… free from burdens
… no ills
… clothe themselves in violence
… callous hearts
… evil conceits
… malice
… threaten with oppression
… lie
… question God
… carefree
… yet increase in wealth

Verses 12-13: It sure seems to ME that there is a problem here. What about ME? I am good for nothing! For what purpose do I keep myself pure? It is in vain!

14-15: Asaph...
… keeps his heart pure
… keeps being innocence
… BUT plagued all day long
… punished every morning

It is: “I” this and “I” that. I see the pain in my own heart and it is ever before ME!

Yet,… then Asaph entered the sanctuary of God he understood their final destiny!

The big picture was revealed to him.

Now, his focus was centered on God. Now, he sees that these other people are the ones on slippery ground. They are the ones who will fall to their ruin.

He sees that ‘they’ are not really safe at all. He is! He is on the Rock. The Rock of his Salvation!

He sees that he once was acting like them. (21-22 & 4-11) Yet, the reality is found in the fact that he had always been in His His His Love!  In His Care!

22-24: The reality is: 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 

Now, Asaph now realizes that reality is found in this relationship and that his prayers are being not only heard but also acted upon...even when there is no visible fact to support that. 
He realizes that he has The One in his heart!

25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And earth has nothing I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Now, I realize that He is my strength and my portion forever. How does our friend Ann put it: “He has given me all that I need…”

27 Those who are far from You will perish;
You destroy all who are unfaithful to You.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all Your deeds.

Those who are far can, in some point in time, come close as well. It is always open and available for everyone. Just come to Him and He will come to you. As… I will tell of all Your deeds.