Believe it or not, about six months of each year, my job is almost normal. During those times, I type letters, answer the phones, make copies, maintain databases, cut checks, and do financial reports. Of course, I make up for that “down” time by being off-the-charts busy for the other six months of the year. But during part of the fall and most of the winter, I thrive in the calm, quiet recesses of my office.
On these days, you will usually find me at my computer, tick-tacking endlessly on the keyboard and listening to free Christian radio at www.klove.com or www.pandora.com. And on days when my boss is out of the office and the phone isn’t ringing incessantly, I will occasionally download a free sermon from my friend, the late Rev. Tommy Tyson at www.tommytyson.org. Or I might watch a message from Louie Giglio at www.268generation.com. There’s nothing like some good Word to keep the anointing flowing on those long, tedious days when the sound of your own typing is hypnotizing you and putting you to sleep.
Lately, I’ve been too busy to focus on listening to a sermon during the workday. But the lessons I’ve learned from those sermons come back to me when I need them most.
About ten years ago, I was at a retreat at Tommy Tyson’s retreat center when I heard him tell a story about growing up in a family of ten children in the 1920’s and 1930’s in Farmville, NC.
Mealtime was always an event in the Tyson household. Mama’s cooking was good and with a dozen or more people at the table, if a boy wasn’t quick about it when the plates passed him, he might not get a piece of chicken or a biscuit before they were gone. Nevertheless, Daddy Jack and Mama Stella did teach their young’n’s manners and they expected them to use those manners. When a little one asked for something, he must ask for it in a specific way.
“Mama, thank ya for the butter.”
“Earl, thank ya for the peas.”
“Dewey, thank ya for the tea.”
If a person asked for something, he always said thank you before he asked for it. That was the way Mama taught them and that was the only way she would allow them to act at her table.
Why is it that so often, we ask God for things and then wait to say “Thank You” after the prayer has been answered? Or we never say “Thank You” at all? Could it be that we’re only thankful for what God can do for us instead of that He loves us enough to listen?
A while back, in one of Louie Giglio’s messages, he talked about how God loves to hear the prayers of the thankful. He said that when we pray, we should thank God before we ask Him for anything. (Now, where have I heard that before?) Instead of saying, “Lord, please heal my child.” We should say, “Lord, I thank You for healing my child.” When you thank Him ahead of time, it becomes more like a prayer of faith. “Lord, I thank You because I believe that You’ll do it.”
These lessons have changed the way I pray. When I changed the way that I pray, I started to believe that maybe God does hear my prayers. Oh, I think He always heard them. But now, my heart is able to believe that He hears them. Because I believe that God hears my prayers, I’m able to pray prayers of faith instead of begging prayers of desperation and hopelessness.
Lately, I’ve been watching some of my friends go through some hard circumstances… A friend whose very active 11-year-old has been diagnosed with stage four rhabdomyosarcoma (cancer) and has gone from cheerleading camp to a hospital bed… A friend whose nineteen-year-old granddaughter has left her husband and is currently missing… A friend who has two parents who both have cancer… A friend who has been trying desperately for almost ten years to get pregnant, but who has been unable to conceive… A friend whose estranged husband has kidnapped their child…
The first thing that goes through my mind in all of these circumstances is: how could a person live through pain like this unless they have Christ? And the second thing that goes through my mind is: we must pray the prayer of faith.
I will probably never understand why 11-year-old Cheyenne has this horrible, painful, rare and incurable form of cancer, but the only way that I can face it and fight it is through prayer. Prayer is stronger than any surgery, doctor, or chemotherapy. And honestly, in all of these situations, only God can heal them. I choose not to sit in the dark and cry and question: “Why, God?” I choose to stand in the light, with my hands outstretched and expecting the answers, and say: “God, I thank You for the healing. I thank You for returning what the locusts have eaten and what the cankerworms have destroyed.”