In The Shelter of God’s Promises Sheila Walsh talks about Moses’ bold requests to God. She says: “He knew what intimacy with God was like; therefore, he knew he could be completely honest in his requests” (p. 20).
You don’t have to be one of the Bible’s great heroes to pray like this. God also invites us to be completely honest with Him in our requests. If we’re thinking it, God wants to hear about it.
A woman’s mind is like a huge whiteboard filled with a variety of topics. Our thoughts can range through at least 15 different subjects in the course of 5 minutes or less. If you’re anything like me, much of that thought time has to do with fretting about things that you want to control. I spend a lot of time thinking about ways I can solve problems. Somehow, things rarely seem to work out the way I plan!
I teach an after school math program for 5th graders that coaches kids on how to solve problems using a variety of strategies. One of our class sayings is “Problem solving is what you do when you don’t know what to do.” Some problems lend themselves to obvious strategies, others can be much more convoluted and challenging. My son and I will sit and do the homework problems together and grapple with the hard ones until we find an answer. My sheet of scratch paper is full of my pencil scrawls. It’s messy, but it shows my hard work. Being the teacher, I have the luxury of looking up the answers once we’re done to see if we got them right.
One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that if I read the solution to a problem before I try to work it out, the thrill of the challenge is gone. If I’m in a rush before class and haven’t taken the time to work the problems, I don’t have the same level of understanding or connectedness with them. Because I haven’t worked through them, I am not nearly as effective in discussing with the class how to solve them. I can follow the steps on the printed page that looks so much neater than my own scratch paper, but sometimes I don’t even fully understand it myself.
Last week I gave out a problem that I recycled from one of last year’s tests. One boy recognized it immediately and commented. “I remember this problem, it was a hard one! It felt so good when I figured out the answer.” He didn’t remember it from the solutions sheet I passed out after the test; he remembered it because he’d sweated through solving it.
I think grappling with God in prayer is much the same way. When we aren’t willing to pray through things or wait on God, we miss out on the intimacy He has to offer. We try to find quick fixes rather than trusting God to work in His perfect timing. Sometimes we pray hoping He’ll just do it “our way,” because it looks more sanitized and orderly, like my pre-printed math solutions. And just like my scratch paper scrawling, being open to God’s plan may lead to a messier process, but a more satisfying result and a deeper connectedness with Him. As Sheila Walsh says: “When God’s answer comes, His creativity leaves us stunned and in awe of Him” (p. 28). We find the joy and wonder of discovering the answer in his perfect planning and timing.
Praying honestly before God exposes our hearts to Him and shows our humble reliance on Him. It shows God that we trust Him to work things out in His way and in His timing rather than relying on ourselves.
So, the next time you find yourself fretting or struggling with a problem, try entrusting it to God and letting Him work it out. Unlike the Math Olympiad motto, maybe it would be better to say: “Praying is what you do when you don’t know what to do.”
I can’t wait to hear how He leaves you “stunned and in awe”! Be sure to share so others can praise Him and be encouraged.