Friday, September 2, 2011

God and Umbrellas

Someone once questioned whether we can claim to have faith if we pray for rain and don’t carry an umbrella. As I indicated in yesterday’s post, just because we pray for something doesn’t mean God has to give it to us and yet, he wants us to make our requests known to him and he often gives us what we request. That causes me to question whether we should measure our faith by whether we carry an umbrella or not.

When we have a problem that causes us to worry, whether it be a lack of rain, the desire for a child, or the health of a loved one, Philippians 4:6,7 tells us that we can make our requests known to God and he will give us peace. Sometimes that peace comes from God giving us the thing we asked for. I’m sure the church had a lot more peace when Peter showed up at the door than when they were praying for his release from prison. We might fault them for being surprised that he would show up, but they were probably hoping he would be released the next day or sometime that week. They weren’t expecting an angel to set him free.

God often answers prayer in unexpected ways. We usually association a pay increase with a job promotion, but a few years ago the Lord gave me a pay increase through a layoff notice. The department I was in was laying off, but the department I was working for still needed me, so after I received a layoff notice from one department, the other department hired me at a higher salary. It was disconcerting when I got that layoff notice. I thought I was trusting God and here I was without a job. He provided, just as he said he would, but it wasn’t the way I expected.

When we pray, we should do so with the attitude that while we’re telling God what we would like to happen, it is ultimately his decision as to whether he gives us what we want and how he gives us what we want. A simple example is a parent with a child. Parents like giving their kids things, but a child may ask for something that would be harmful or the parent knows it would be better to wait because something better is coming. God has a more complete understanding than any parent, so it shows no lack of faith on our part to request something and still question whether God will give it to us or not. Our faith should be that God will keep his promises, not that we will receive everything we request. If God promises that he will give us the thing we request, that is one thing, but he doesn’t always do that.

One thing that God has promised is that it’ll be okay. We make our requests known to God and things may not work out the way we thought best, but it’ll be okay. Maybe he takes a loved one from us rather than returning them to health. As painful as that is, it’ll be okay. We may ask for something that seems good, but we don’t get it. It may be that not receiving it will give us better things in heaven. We, of course, have no way of knowing that, but God does. But that doesn’t mean we should quit asking. We should ask in our limited understanding and trust that God in his infinite understanding will show himself strong on our behalf. Often, that means he will give us what we ask for, but it the decision is best left in his hands.