Depend on God for everything.
Several friends and I used to play Monopoly when I lived in Oxford, England. These weren’t your old-school, four-hour Monopoly endurance spectacles. We played fast and furious, everyone paying attention, moving the little thimble or iron as soon as the dice settled, and calling out the rent as quickly as possible. Player one would be settling up accounts on buying Illinois Avenue as player two was moving to the Reading Railroad. We called it Economic Armageddon.
One of the keys to keeping these games moving quickly was not getting bogged down in change-making. When the rent was $22, we’d toss $25 or $20 across the board, making mental note that this person owed or was owed a small sum. We knew that, even if we forgot them, these small amounts wouldn’t change the outcome of the game. On the other, when somebody landed on North Carolina Avenue (complete with four houses), we gleefully collected everything that was owed.
Monopoly is all about driving the other players to ruin. It’s all about getting every bit of the limited resources that exist in the game’s universe, taking them from the people around you. Sometimes we look at life as if it were a game of Monopoly, with our goal being to grab as much of the world’s limited resources as possible. That’s not what God has called us to do.
Instead of depending on our wiles and the luck of a dice roll, God wants us to depend on Him and know that He has limitless resources at his disposal. Economic Armageddon can be fun when played on a game board, but it’s pointless in real life.
- In what areas of your life do you find it difficult to trust in God’s provision?
- Can you name a time in which God has seemed to provide for you in a manner that defies rational explanation?
- Pray that above all else, God will make you trust in his willingness to care for your needs.
1 Kings 19:12
Pray by listening as well as speaking.
When I call my employer’s computer help desk, I am not calling for a stupid reason. They don’t need to ask me if the computer is plugged in or if I’m trying to read email with a spreadsheet program. By the time I call, I’ve usually done a pretty thorough job of trying to diagnose the problem and ensuring that I can’t fix it myself.
One of my greatest aggravations then is when, as I detail what the computer is doing and what steps did not solve the problem, I have some tech on the phone ask, “Are you sure you used the right password?”
“Yes!” I want to scream. “I couldn’t have done what I’ve just described without the password!” I don’t scream, but I do grow annoyed when they don’t listen. How much more quickly could they close a ticket if they listened?
Even more foolish than those occasional non-listening help desk workers am I when I pray to God and then don’t bother listening for his response. That response might come in a still small voice, a coincidentally helpful scripture reading, a friend’s random words, or something else. But if I’m not listening, then I’m wasting a great opportunity.
- What was the last time that you experienced a response to a prayer? What form did that response take?
- How many different ways have you experienced God replying to your prayers or those of others?
- Dedicate yourself not just to the sending of messages through prayer but to the receiving of whatever response God has to offer.
Pray about everything that matters to you.
A friend told me today something interesting. It seems that his son, Jacob, a fourth-grader, is filling his prayers with concerns for the fate of a once-great retailer: K-Mart.
At first, Jacob prayed for the corporation itself. When his parents explained that they probably didn’t need to pray for the company, he changed his tack and began to pray for all the people who stand to be out of work as K-Mart slowly goes out of business.
Honestly, I’m a bit humbled by Jacob’s prayers. When I saw the going-out-of-business sign on my local K-Mart, my first reaction was “It’s about time.” But this young man saw that sign and realized that the demise of a store would touch people’s lives. It troubled him, so he took the matter to God.
I’ve taught kids for many years, so I’ve heard many peculiar prayer requests. But in the end, is there such a thing as a peculiar prayer? If I’m sincerely concerned about something, the integrity of my tires, the neighbor’s peach tree, or the fate of K-Mart employees, then why shouldn’t I take that to my heavenly Father?
Too often, we can be lulled into thinking that topics are not lofty enough or important enough to merit prayer. That’s just wrong. In those cases when we do pray foolishly, God will gently correct us, just as those parents guided Jacob.
- Is there anything that you consider inappropriate as a subject for prayer? Why?
- What are some “trivial” things that you have felt led to include in your prayers in the past? How did those prayers work out?
- Go through your week looking for things that you normally wouldn’t include in your prayers and discuss them with God to see where they take you.
Pray like you’d talk to your best friend.
When was the last time you grew irritated with God? If you’re not comfortable with that question, then try this one on. When was the last time you grew irritated with your best friend?
I’d suggest that if you have a friend with whom you never disagree, who you never find aggravating, with whom you never argue or fuss, who doesn’t receive some harsh words now and then, then you really don’t have much of a friendship with that person.
Friendship, of course, ought to be mostly a positive thing. It wouldn’t make much sense to have someone you hated as your best friend. On the hand, though, is there anyone on this earth with whom you always agree? And if you spend a good deal of time with that person, if you really wrap your life significantly into your friend’s life, then you’re going to have some tense moments. It’s okay for friends to disagree and argue now and again.
So is it okay to disagree and argue with God? Yes, but there’s one significant difference. When you argue with God, you are, by definition, wrong. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but you’re going to wind up being wrong.
These opening verses of Psalm 5 show David as a demanding and rather gripy-sounding fellow. And that’s okay. Friends will disagree. Friends will become irritated with each other.
If you’re never arguing with God, then perhaps your friendship hasn’t reached that level of intimacy that allows such talk.
- What do you (or should you) argue with God about?
- Have you ever had the experience of being set straight after you begin to argue with God? How did He do it? How did it feel?
- Resolve to pray as earnestly and openly this week as you would talk with your closest companion.
Keep your faith-tank full.
As I write this, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors are duking it out in Game Two of the NBA Finals. Most of the experts figure that last year’s champions, the Warriors, will handily win the series, and in the first game, three days ago, Golden State made a pretty emphatic statement, drubbing the Cavs by 22 points.
I’m no expert on basketball, but I’ve heard that even before that first game, the Warriors were prohibitive favorites. What I know for certain is that if the Cavaliers believe that there is no point, that they can’t win, that the die is cast, then they’re going to go down.
Two years ago, when the Royals improbably won the World Series–and the year before when they even more improbably reached the Series–the experts simply knew my favorite team wouldn’t win. The thing is that nobody seemed to convince the Royals of that. They just kept winning those games that they were supposed to lose. When there was no hope, they just won. Had they decided that they had no chance, then they would have been right.
Think about the toughest case of an unsaved person you know, the person who will resist, it seems, until the bitter end. Do you believe? Do you have the faith that God can do for that hard case what He has already done for you? Have you kept your faith?
Losing faith in sports is not terribly important. In our Christian walk it is almost everything.
- Have you lost your original faith? Do you have the sort of confidence in God’s power that you had when you were first saved?
- In what situations is it hardest for you to maintain your faith?
- Pray that God will show you the way to maintain your early-day faith?