The Paper Pulpit
Megan McKenna, in Parables, tells the story of a woman who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart and all sorts of good things, but she was frustrated. The world seemed to be falling apart. Just reading the newspapers depressed her.
One day she decided to go shopping, and she went into a mall and picked a store at random. She walked in and was surprised to see Jesus standing behind the counter. She knew it was Jesus, because He looked just like the pictures she had seen of Him painted by artists.
She finally got up the nerve and asked, “Excuse me, but are you Jesus?”
“Do you work here?”
“No,” Jesus said, “I own the store.”
“Oh, what do you sell?”
“Just about anything!”
“Yes, anything! What do you want?”
“I don’t know,” She replied.
“Well,” Jesus said, “feel free to walk up and down the aisles, make a list of the things you want, and then come back and bring me your list.”
So, she walked up and down the aisles. She saw displayed peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, harmony, clean air, careful use of resources, and many other wonderful things. She wrote furiously. By the time she got back to the counter, she had a long list.
Jesus took the list, skimmed through it, looked up at her and smiled. “No problem,” He said. He then bent down behind the counter and picked out the things she requested, stood up, and laid out some packets.
When she asked what these were, Jesus replied, “Seed packets. This is a catalog store.”
“You mean I don’t get the finished product?”
“No, this is a place of dreams. You come here to see what you need looks like, and I give you the seeds so you can plant them. Then you nurture the seeds and help them to grow. Later, someone else reaps the harvest of what you have sown.”
“Oh!” she said, disappointed. Then she left the store without buying anything.
This beautiful parable describes the way Christians sometime pray. All the resources in heaven’s storehouse are available to us. God, the Son, said so. God, the Father, guarantees it. We, however, want our blessings to come as finished products. And we want them immediately – if not sooner!
We ask God for: a loving family, a witnessing church, a specific neighbor or co-worker to become a Christian, healing in our relationships, and many other positive and wonderful things. He gives us seeds to plant that will bring these things to pass. Not being willing to plant the seeds that will make possible that for which we pray, we walk away unblessed, wondering why God didn’t answer our prayer.
God hears every prayer, but He answers in accordance with his will. Sometimes He says “Yes,” sometimes He says “No,” and sometimes He says “Not Now!” When God doesn’t answer our prayer in the WAY we request and on the SCHEDULE we assign to Him, we think He hasn’t answered at all. Our problem is that we simply aren’t willing to participate with Him in making that for which we pray become a reality.
Prayer is more than asking God to run errands for us; it is, in its finest sense, our reporting for duty. If we fail to understand that, our prayers become like the one prayed by an elderly deacon who bowed his head, closed his eyes and said, “Use me, Lord, in the work of Your Kingdom – but only in an advisory capacity.”
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.