Sunday, August 03, 2008

Praying More than We Mean

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think . . . (Ephesians 3:20 ESV).

On-line streaming video is amazing. It’s almost 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I’m sitting around in shorts and a T-shirt, planning to be on the beach before lunch time. And yet, thanks to streaming video, I’m right there in worship with the folks at Peachtree.

I know. How pathetic is it that we’re at the beach and we’re still watching our service back home. Seems to defeat the whole idea of a vacation. But we can’t help ourselves. Sunday morning in shorts and a t-shirt just doesn’t seem right. So even though I’m barely paying attention, sitting here at my own computer with an occasional glance at the service unfolding on Marnie’s laptop, it feels good to be connected to our worshipping congregation back home.

While this beach trip may not find us gathering with a community of believers, it has not been void of worship. Last night we rode our bikes to the beach and walked out on the sand. John and Anna jumped small waves and this meant repeated reprimands and admonitions about not getting too wet or venturing into the water. But to stand beneath the black sky of the gulf coast with stars and constellations smattered overhead and the accompaniment of roaring ocean all around was worship indeed, parenting challenges aside.

And this morning on the front porch of the house, after reading the assigned scripture texts, I spent a few minutes reading The Journals of Jim Elliot. Jim Elliot, missionary to Ecuador, was killed with four colleagues by the Auca Indians on January 8, 1956. His story inspired a generation of missionaries, and continues to do so today. I’m reading journal entries that were written in 1948 when Elliot was a student at Wheaton. He is reading the Old Testament, a chapter a day it seems, and writing a paragraph or so of reflection and prayer on the text he reads.

A couple of days ago I was especially challenged by something he wrote on February 16, 1948 after reading Exodus 1. Elliot is observing how Israel flourished under persecution. How the people increased in Egypt, even as slaves. Elliot rightly observes that God’s kingdom advances through affliction. And then Elliot adds, “send persecution to me, Lord, that my life might bring forth much fruit.”

How God answered that prayer. Elliot himself could never have imagined what God intended to do with and through his life, how his violent death would bear much fruit.

Sometimes we may pray things we don’t mean. But perhaps, just as often, we pray more than we mean. Our hearts are in the right place, not distant, not at odds with the words we speak. But we speak things to God without realizing what our prayer might mean, or what it might mean if Gods truly answers us and does what we ask.

The gospel reading this morning was Matthew’s telling of the feeding of the five thousand. Matthew leaves out the boy with loaves and fishes. As Matthew tells it the disciples somehow have the meager meal, no explanation offered as to where it came from. I like the version that involves the boy with his sack lunch. He allows the disciples to take what he has, but none of them have any idea what Jesus will do with the bread and the fish.

Maybe Jesus does the same with our prayers. We pray from the life we have today. We offer who we are right now. And maybe as we do so, we pray more than we mean because God takes what we offer and does more than we can ask or imagine.

No comments: