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The state of Hawaii recently mandated bigger holes in the fishing nets used in pacific waters. The law was supposed to help small fish grow into larger ones. This is good news if you're a fish, at least if you are a relatively small fish. Our prayer life can be likened to those fishing nets.
Some of our prayer nets have large holes due to the infrequency of our prayers. They need adjustment and a tightening to the overall pattern. Other people have holes torn by life's difficulties or, worse, by sin.
Most of us do pray, yet the Bible teaches that we "have not, because ye ask not" (Jas. 4:2, KJV). A haphazard prayer life is like a loosely woven fishing net. Nets like this let all but the largest fish escape. But worse than this is when we sometimes refuse to pray. Refusal usually follows anger toward God or feelings of guilt over our sin. When we stop praying altogether, it is as if we are working with torn nets, which let all the fish escape. But here's the good news: Both loose and torn prayer nets are fixable.
Will God Do More Than I Imagine?
I recently led a team of nine people to Okinawa. We went to build friendships with people in a church we had started there. Two of our group members were traveling standby.
When we got to the Kansai airport in Japan, we were told that the two people on standby would not be able to complete the trip to Okinawa that evening. We were traveling during a Japanese holiday and 12 people were in front of my friends for seats on the already overbooked aircraft. I was faced with leaving behind two people who didn't speak Japanese. They also knew nothing about the complicated process (in Japan) of obtaining a hotel room and transportation. Our whole team joined together to ask God for help with the problem. We needed those two people on the same aircraft as the rest of us.
We weren't praying because of any great faith on my part. I was as discouraged as I have ever been. We prayed because I am a pastor and pastors are supposed to pray in the face of difficulty. In other words, my heart wasn't really in those prayers. Therefore, you can guess that I was the most surprised person on the airplane when my two smiling friends boarded at the last minute.
That experience reminds me of a verse from Scripture that reads:
Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope (Eph. 3:20).
My friends' inclusion on that flight was what I had asked-and it was certainly more than I had hoped for. God not only answered my prayer that day, but He also sent me a message. He wanted me to know that His power far exceeds my ability to believe. His power and His willingness to help us surpass our willingness to pray. He is waiting to hear from us. When we take time to contact Him, help is on its way.
If there is any lesson I have learned in the last decade of my life, it is simply to pray-even when I don't have tons of faith.
If praying catches help from God, I want to do more of it. I want my prayer net to help me get all that I need from Him.
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
The habit of prayer is one of the surest marks of a true Christian.
Have you ever watched fishermen weaving nets? They invest in the process equal amounts of steadiness and skill. With a combination of ability and persistence, they see the job through to completion. Later, their perseverance turns to prosperity when they hoist their mended nets and haul many fish into the boat.
A net-weaver's steady consistence provides a good model for our prayer lives.
Call To Me
Pity Jeremiah. He had a terrible job. He was a missionary of misery. His job was to stand against his own family and friends. He was called to rebuke them for their sinful lives. While his family believed in God and had known His blessings in prior generations, during Jeremiah's lifetime, they turned from God, worshiped idols and blamed the Lord for most of their troubles.
Jeremiah's task was to alert his countrymen of danger because they had forsaken God's protection. He warned of a murderous war with survivors kidnapped to live as slaves in their enemy's homeland. However, his problem was that everything he predicted was very slow to come to fruition. His words came true in his lifetime, but he was miserable up until that time.
Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet. You can probably guess why. He wept in horror over the destruction he saw in his vision. But he also wept because he felt sorry for himself. His life was a wreck. God-inspired, Jeremiah preached, but then it seemed like nothing ever happened.
To his friends and neighbors, Jeremiah played the fool. Eventually, nearly everyone hated him for his negative pronouncements. In chapter 33 of his biography, we find Jeremiah moping in the courtyard dungeon. Competing prophets called him a liar. Some threw rocks at him. Daily, the public cried for his death. That's why when this guy heard from the Lord, he was in bad shape and whining loudly about his situation.
I Will Answer You
God showed up with a word of encouragement for Jeremiah. The encouragement is elegant yet so simple that we often overlook it when we read the Bible.
Ask me and I will tell you some remarkable secrets about what is going to happen here (Jer. 33:3).
God went on to describe the coming disaster and finally outlined His plans to heal His people if they would turn back to Him. But the part we need to remember most is His personal message to Jeremiah:
Ask me and I will tell you ... what is going to happen here (emphasis added).
It is easy to forget the power of those two words "Ask me." Prayer is simply asking God for what we need. Jeremiah needed knowledge, but he was losing hope. God challenged him to remain steady in his prayers.
You may need a job or money for groceries. You may desire to have a child. You may need physical protection or spiritual guidance. You may need help restoring a friendship. You may need encouragement. God is waiting for you to ask Him.
I Will Show You Great And Mighty Things
An older translation phrases those encouraging words to Jeremiah this way:
Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know (Jer, 33:3, NKJV).
"Great and mighty things" implies something spectacular. One of my friends operates a California film studio. A few years ago, he felt called to make secular films with a pro-Christian slant. Starting out, he made a couple of very enjoyable films, but they didn't do well commercially.
One day he was in prayer, struggling with God in fear that he might bankrupt his company and lose his house. While he prayed, he felt that God gave him a new name for his company. It came from Jeremiah 33:3. He renamed his business GMT Productions, or Great and Mighty Things Productions.
Renaming the company was his way of demonstrating trust toward God in spite of his fears. Since that time, God has redirected and immensely prospered his company. He now operates one of the largest studio rental stages in Los Angeles and is a great Christian witness to thousands of people in the entertainment business. He also has rights to a couple of great films.
Therefore, the message to Jeremiah and to us is learn to look up-God has all you need if you'll just ask. Realizing that God will do great and mighty things, you can echo the song of thanksgiving found in Jeremiah 33:11.
Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, for the LORD is good. His faithful love endures forever! For I will restore the prosperity of this land to what it was in the past.
God created a plan to take care of His people, even before they stopped rebelling against Him. His plan included the ultimate restoration of all that had been lost to Satan. The key to understanding and moving in that plan began with a simple directive to call on the name of the Lord.
We can weave better prayer nets by the simple habit of praying habitually. Your life has a way of delivering continuous problems to your doorstep. A regular flow of difficulties demands a steady flow of prayer. Dare I put it this way: Pray more-catch more.
We don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
Sometimes God is so touched by what He sees that He gives us what we need and not simply that for which we ask.
Excerpted from Prayer: DARE TO ASK by RALPH MOORE
Copyright © 2002 by Ralph Moore
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.