Prayer Flares

“Hey, God, I need some help here!”

“Please, God, if you do this, I promise…”

“I can’t do this on my own. Help me get all this done!”

God wants to hear from us no matter what is going on in our lives, but we need to pay attention to the patterns of communication we set. We lead such busy lives that we don’t always think we have the time we need to foster the prayer lives we truly want. But we reach out to God when we’re overwhelmed and desperate. We need His help to accomplish and manage all that we’ve scheduled and determined, especially when anything extra tries to squeeze its way in as an interruption.

Often, we send up prayer flares–calls for help–but we want help in accomplishing what we want, not paying attention much to what God wants for and from us. We send up prayer flares not to change our pace but to maintain it. It’s more about our pace and priorities than God’s.

Prayer flares aren’t bad. But God doesn’t just want us calling out to Him in emergency situations, especially when we’re not really asking Him to rescue and provide for us in His way. We want Him to meet us where we are but we’re not as willing to go where He then wants to take us. We want His assistance in living our lives instead of wanting to live the lives He purposes for us.

Lesson from Nature: Stronger than You Think

©PurePurpose.org
©PurePurpose.org

Just because something looks precarious doesn’t mean it is. Just because it looks strong doesn’t mean it has a lasting, dependable strength.

We’re usually taught to rely on our own strength. If we have to rely on anyone else, we’re seen as weak. At least, that’s been the predominant cultural message for quite a while. “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” “Stand on your own two feet.” “Make sure you can provide for yourself.” Responsibility is a good thing, but self-reliance isn’t. It will get us into trouble, because we’ll begin to believe that we’re in charge, that we control what will happen next because of our own efforts. But, think about it, how much do you truly do with absolutely no influence or assistance from anyone else? People are interdependent. We need each other.

And we need God.

If we believe we have the strength to withstand everyday pressures, what happens when one day’s pressures become too much? We think the ledge beneath our feet will hold us up, because it has, day after day. But one day, we don’t realize how the ledge has been weakened over time, and a large chunk falls beneath us. On the other hand, if we believe we have no strength, we don’t step onto the ground that gives us the best perspective. We don’t fully enjoy what God has planned for us. We let fear and insecurity guide our steps instead of God’s assurance.

Strength isn’t ours to muster. We get it from somewhere. And that means we have to go to the source of it.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song. (Psalm 29:7)

A Chance to Respond

I recently drained the battery of the van while sitting in Kohl’s parking lot waiting for the girls to get done shopping. Instead of waiting for roadside assistance, I thought of someone who lives ten minutes away. He was soon on his way. Just as I was wondering how he was going to pull alongside the van when he arrived, the car to my left backed out. I jumped out to stand in the empty space, hoping to keep it clear until help arrived.

Busy department store. An empty parking space close to the doors. Congested shopping a couple days before Christmas. Well…at least it wasn’t as cold as it had been recently. I watched many faces of people who spotted the great parking spot and frantically tried to reach it before someone else. I saw puzzling looks when they saw me standing in the space. I’d smile and motion for someone to roll down a window so I could apologize for the inconvenience after a brief explanation that I was trying to save the space for someone to help me.

What a myriad of responses…

  • Several smiled understandably.
  • A couple people asked if I needed help. 
  • One asked if I needed jumper cables. “No, thanks,” I said. He responded, “Well, I don’t mind jump-starting the car if you let me park here.”
  • One man looked as if he didn’t believe me but later walked by and told me how odd it was that I couldn’t start my van. His wife had the same issue two rows from the same parking space a couple weeks earlier. He arrived to help and was waiting for an adjacent space. When it became available, someone quickly zipped into it and refused to move even after hearing their story.
  • One man told me he wouldn’t make a big deal about it, but if he came out and saw I’d simply been saving the space for a friend, I might find my tires slashed. I didn’t know if he was kidding. It hadn’t occurred to me that people would think I was scamming.
  • One car, driven by a young woman accompanied by, perhaps, her mom, began to pull into the space despite me standing in it. I motioned for the mom to roll down the window. The driver kept inching her way closer to me. I explained, and the mom laughed while looking at her daughter, who looked disgusted and determined to move forward. She sat there for at least 30 seconds, staring straight ahead. The mom continued to laugh and look between me and her daughter. I apologized several times and thanked them for understanding. The car began to move slightly, but just as it passed me a little more, the driver tried to cut back into the space – then slammed on her brakes, rolled her eyes and drove on.

I have to admit…there have been times I’ve responded with irritation when I feel inconvenienced. There are times I respond with irritation when I feel inconvenienced. I hope those times are less frequent, but I’m just being honest – I don’t always respond with patience, love and understanding.

We can all find situations in which we’ve been generous. We sacrifice our time or convenience for someone else. But what about the times we respond on the other end of the spectrum? In what situations have you responded with anger, irritation or apathy when you could have responded with patience, generosity, and compassion?

Be honest with yourself. And watch for opportunities to choose well…today.

This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love; that you will see the difference between good and bad and will choose the good. Philippians 1:9-10