I’m generally a rule-follower by nature. I don’t like to ruffle feathers or make requests that inconvenience people. I don’t like to draw attention to myself. I’m not particularly dramatic. In the last few years, however, I’ve started getting a bit more courageous about taking risks and making requests. A new phrase has been finding its way into my vocabulary: “It never hurts to ask.” My husband chuckled at my newfound courage a few months ago as I loaded two giant resin pots into the back of our car. We’d owned them less than a year and they were already starting to fall apart due to sun damage. I figured it was worth asking for our money back. “It never hurts to ask,” I told my husband. If they said “no,” we weren’t any worse off than we were before. I lugged the pots into the store and politely explained the problem to the woman at the return counter. She took one look at the cracking and sun-bleached pots and gave me a store credit equal to their value. That night, I proudly showed my husband the gift card I’d gotten. “See? This will pay for two new ones. I told you, it never hurts to ask!”
Apparently, Gideon had a similar thought when he boldly asked God to show him a tangible sign that He was calling him into battle against the Midianites. Here is the story from Judges 6:36-40.
Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised— look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.
Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.
Priscilla Shirer’s contention in Gideon: Your Weakness, God’s Strength is that once Gideon finds the fleece and the ground exactly as he asked, he begins to doubt. Gideon wonders if he’s mistaken because the ground would naturally dry faster than the absorbent fleece. So, he risks asking God for a second sign of confirmation. This time, he requests that God make the ground wet and the fleece dry. In His infinite patience, God grants Gideon’s second request.
Priscilla points out that Gideon had been heavily influenced by the predominant “religion” of Baalism. “The universe, a Baalist would subscribe, was self-sustaining, with no eternal Being actively involved in supporting and maintaining it. While they believed it possible to stimulate or manipulate nature/Baal to respond in a certain way, they firmly believed that the world and its happenings were independent of God’s involvement. This made the personal, intimate relationship that Yahweh offered to Gideon contrary to his Baal-instructed mind. He had never felt a need to pray for certain things, because the processes that nature put in place were set and could not be altered” (Gideon, p. 111).
Priscilla then turns the tables and makes this personal: “consider how many things we don’t take to God in prayer because we’ve grown accustomed to the usual processes we experience daily… Even God’s people have been duped into believing that either He will not really do anything on our behalf or that He doesn’t need to because certain things just happen anyway” (Gideon, p. 112).
The book of James echoes this sentiment: “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives… Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:2b, 3a, 8a).
Last week I heard a story from a friend. It shows the contrast between asking God to intervene and assuming natural processes will just run their course. A few years ago, my friend’s uncle found himself in the Emergency Room with crushing chest pain. He was told that he needed to have emergency open-heart surgery to repair a dissected aorta. The prognosis was grim. Doctors predicted he had mere hours to live if he didn’t have the surgery and preparations were quickly made to begin. My friend and her family members gathered in the waiting room and began praying. Her stepfather, who was a surgeon, was granted permission to observe the surgery. As he stood in the operating room and watched the surgeons work, the situation looked dire. He decided to go out and give family members the sad update. As he rounded the corner to the waiting room, he found the family sitting in a circle deep in prayer. Not a man of the same faith, he made a hasty retreat, deciding he preferred the grim scene in the operating room to the prayer circle in the waiting room. As he re-entered the surgery, he was shocked to discover the doctors completing a full repair on the aorta. Miraculously, they’d been able to salvage enough tissue to suture it back together. The doctors were incredulous and my friend’s stepfather could hardly believe what he was seeing. In fact, the heart surgeon calls her uncle his “miracle patient” to this day. My friend’s stepfather had just accepted that there was little hope for the uncle. Seeing his family members praying in the waiting room had seemed like a vain and foolish attempt to ward off the inevitable. How wrong he was.
My friend’s uncle has gone on to live for thirteen more years. He’s had a rich and full life and has been blessed to watch his youngest daughter marry and to be a part of the lives of his three grandchildren. And all because his family members refused to give up hope and trusted God to intervene.
Are there things in life you’ve just accepted without even considering praying about them? Are you plodding through life not even thinking of the ways God could intervene in your circumstances if you asked Him? Maybe it’s a spouse or family member whose heart seems totally hardened toward God. Maybe it’s a child you lock horns with daily. Maybe it’s your health. Maybe it’s a broken relationship that won’t seem to heal. Maybe it’s a hidden addiction. Maybe it’s the ongoing struggle that you’re tired of fighting against depression, anxiety, loneliness or insecurity. Maybe it’s financial distress. Or maybe, you’re tired of just surviving and you long to be thriving in a fuller, richer, more passionate life.
Whatever it is, there is nothing that we cannot bring to God in prayer. He delights in invitations for Him to move and work in our lives. We can’t necessarily tell God how to work something out, but we can grow through the act of praying and drawing near to Him. Sometimes prayer changes our circumstances, sometimes it changes our perspectives. Sometimes it changes both. One thing is for sure- it never hurts to ask.
Do you have a story of God’s intervention in a situation that others assumed was “just the way it is?” Take time to comment so that others can be encouraged by it and God can receive the praise.