This week, I feel led to write about how to apply the whole faith thing post prayer. I am usually not a fan of acronyms, alliteration or the like when speaking, teaching or writing. I know psychologists maintain that they are useful memory tools, but I think audiences deserve more credit. Nevertheless, I was stuck on how to frame this series of posts until God alliterated it for me. Thus, the 3 acts: The Answer, The Attack, and The Application.
Act 1: The Answer. There was a tremendous response to my post A Little Context where I wrote about faith, and how we have been conditioned to measure our faith by human standards. As I was driving this weekend, God very graciously showed me that if I did not follow up on that post, it would be incomplete.
Just like we will never have enough faith if we measure faith in terms of human quantity, we will never know the fullness of God's grace in answering prayer if we only look for what we expect to find. I would like to illustrate this with a few examples. First, I will use the example I wrote about in A Little Context. For several months, my prayer was, "God, increase my faith." I expected, and I assume many people would also expect, that the answer to that prayer would be to see things that were unbelievable or inexplicable in natural terms. Guess what? That is actually correct, but the unbelievable and inexplicable was not where I would have ever thought to look.
So, what does an answer to prayer really look like? There is no one right answer, but I think we often miss the answer because we do not recognize it. Recall from Daniel 10 that Daniel had a revelation about a great war; he prayed and fasted about its meaning. For 21 days, there was no apparent response. I would imagine Daniel was getting dejected. We now know that a "Daniel fast" is 21 days, but Daniel didn't. A "Daniel fast" is only 21 days because that is how long it took Daniel to get his answer. I would imagine that even with all of Daniel's faith (the lion's den, etc.), after about 10, 11, 12 days he was getting pretty bummed.
Dan. 10:12 ...“Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia."
Imagine, a 21 day angelic battle. Why do you suppose the "prince" of the "kingdom of Persia" tried to prevent that encounter? It is because the answer to that one prayer was so important. Literally, it was one for the record books. I want to pray those prayers. Understand me, I am no Daniel (not yet), but I want to see things and pray for things that all hell would try to stop. But, more on that aspect (Act 2: The Attack) in the next post.
As I recall, I started praying for the increase of faith in February '07. I did not know it at the time, or for several months thereafter (21 days...forget about it), but God was on it[s]ince the first day that [I] set [my] mind to gain understanding and to humble [my]self before [my] God.
By March, my wife and I had committed to go to Israel on a mission trip, and by August we were there. That trip berthed a desire to study Hebrew and read the Bible in its original language, and (seemingly) by chance I came across a teaching regarding the meanings of Hebrew letters. In trying to stumble through Genesis, God lifted a veil from the word Elohim (which I wrote about in The Lord is My Shepherd) and I was blown away. I spent the next two months buried in Genesis 1:1 (which I will post on again, I promise). There was no doubt left.
By no means am I saying that what God was doing was immediately apparent to me, but right about the time I started to see the overall structure of Genesis 1:1, I had a Verizon commercial moment, God was saying, "Can you SEE me now?"
Example 2. Last week, I spent way too much time mentally wrestling with a particular issue that was giving me grief. By Thursday I was doing mental jumping jacks and praying hard for God to just tell me. Friday, I woke up convinced God was going to let me figure this one out on my own. Friday morning, I returned a call from a dear friend of mine (Pastor Eric von Atzigen, of Emmanuel Fellowing Church in Sweetwater) who had forgotten why he called me. Ultimately, he remembered, called me back and we went to lunch.
Near the end of our lunch meeting, he asked a few questions (again, seemingly) in passing, and my instinctive response was to answer "fine" as would be normal. The conversation moved on from there. Then, I got a gentle nudge (more of a jolt, really) from the Spirit asking me, "Hey, didn't you have a question you wanted answered? What more do you want, I go through the trouble of setting up a lunch meeting with a pastor for you, your forget to ask, and now he's the one asking you what you forgot to ask?" Needless to say, I asked, he answered, and my mind was set at ease.
The moral of that story is: I was a hair away from missing out on what God was dishing out. There is no telling how long I would have stewed over that one. The answer is not always a matter of grand revelation. In fact, I would say that grand revelation is the exception, not the rule. Answers come from everywhere. I suspect that God's intention is that they most frequently come from others so that we stay interconnected and co-dependent. It's cool to have a pastor handy, but even then you can miss it if you're not careful.
Lastly, although it should be the first place we look, the answer to every prayer, question or struggle you could ever have can be found in God's word. It may not be apparent, but it's there. We may need someone to find it and explain it, but it's there. We may need God to open it up to us, but it's there.
Everything we will ever need has already been given to us, we just need to learn to look for it.
I'll talk about The Attack after The Answer next time.