Aloha Friday Message – April 5, 2013 – Collect your Bonus

1314AFC040513 – Collect your Bonus

Read it online here, please.

Philippians 4:6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

James 5:13-15  Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.  Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Why doesn’t God answer my prayer? Why does God allow evil to exist? I cannot believe in a God who would let my loved-one die. What’s wrong with GOD!? Doesn’t he know I need this!? I’ve done everything I can to make my prayers right; so why don’t I have an answer yet?

Aloha nui loa. E pili mau na pomaika‘i ia ‘oe a me ke akua ho’omaika’i ‘oe! (Much Love. May blessing always be with you and may God bless you!) Rabbi Harold Kushner published a book in 1978 called When Bad Things Happen to Good People. In that book I found the encouraging words: “The conventional explanation, that God sends us the burden because He knows that we are strong enough to handle it, has it all wrong. Fate, not God, sends us the problem. When we try to deal with it, we find out that we are not strong. We are weak; we get tired, we get angry, overwhelmed. We begin to wonder how we will ever make it through all the years. But when we reach the limits of our own strength and courage, something unexpected happens. We find reinforcement coming from a source outside ourselves. And in the knowledge that we are not alone, that God is on our side, we manage to go on.” [Rabbi Harold Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, New York: Schocken Books, 1981; page 129]

I think many of us have felt at times that God isn’t listening, or doesn’t want to give us what we are praying for so earnestly. Sometimes we even think that there’s no point in praying because nothing happens. We quote Bible verses like James 4:3 – When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures, and then say that God isn’t fair because that’s not what we were going to do anyhow. Well, let’s look at the context of that quote – an important thing to do when looking and any Bible quotes someone is throwing around. Did you follow that link? If you did, you have a better understanding of what James was saying. Even if you didn’t follow the link, you can probably see that there is some wisdom in warning against giving God a “gimme” list or a To-Do list hoping he will comply and maybe toss in a bonus.

This is a tough topic, and I can only encourage you to explore it more – there are dozens of books on this subject – and also share with you my own experiences. There are things I have prayed for years on end, and still pray about because the end result I desire has not come about. I want a certain person to come back to Christ, embrace the Church, and confess their faith; it hasn’t happened, and it’s been over 20 years of praying for that. I lost my engagement ring on the River Walk in San Antonio only weeks after we had it specially hand-crafted – a matching set – and never got it back (although I thought I saw it being worn by a department store clerk many years later). I have prayed for families to heal and reconcile only to see them crash and burn in bitter conflict. I have prayed for deeper, stronger, clearer faith and slammed face-first into the reality of my own sinfulness and weaknesses.

A couple of weeks ago I asked, “Why should I pray?” The answer of course is that I pray because I believe I am heard. So, if God doesn’t answer my prayers, it is not because he isn’t listening. God is Love and God is Kindness (omnibenevolent), so he’s not holding off on “my answer” just to be mean. God is all-powerful (omnipotent) so it’s not that he can’t answer my prayer. God is all-knowing (omniscient) so it can’t be because he doesn’t understand what I want or why I want it. God is Perfectly Just, so he isn’t denying my requests because he doesn’t like me. Why then do I not see the result I want? Why doesn’t God make that person repent and return to the Faith? Why did I never get that ring back? Why do my friends continue their hostility and fail to reconcile?

I might as well ask “Why does God expect us to pray?” I can see only one reason: He wants to hang out with us. God created us in his image. He created us to share in his Life. He walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden and shared in fellowship with them. What is fellowship? Here are some words that come to mind when we see the word “fellowship” in Scripture: Communion, companionship, friendship, community, sharing, κοινωνία (koinonia) – in short, spiritual union by intimate participation. That was “in the beginning.” Before long, though, came sin, and that intimacy was severely interrupted. Nonetheless, in that very moment in which God marked the first sin, redemption, reconciliation, and reunion were already set to be part of our reality. God wants to reclaim that intimacy with us. He wants us to regain that same righteousness we had before sin. He gave us the gift of prayer so that we could experience something of that closeness, that impeccable intimacy, that Divine Mercy of Love which unites us to him eternally.

He wants us to pray so that we will choose to be with him instead of with the world. When even our prayers – our precious opportunities to spend time with him – are so saturated (James would say adulterated) with worldly cravings, it is so difficult for him to be intimately with us; God is always with us, even when we ignore him, but when we remember who we are long enough to identify with our Creator, he has that moment of intimacy with us. And as Rabbi Kushner said, “And in the knowledge that we are not alone, that God is on our side, we manage to go on.”

Beloved, do not make God wait any longer to spend those loving, intimate, powerful moments with you. Do not make him stand there holding an armload of gifts for you, waiting for you to open your arms and your heart to receive them! He already gives you everything you need to live – water, air, your body, food, light, energy, faith – but he has so much more for you!! It’s all yours if you’ll just sit with him for a while and talk. Once you get the hang of that, you realize that getting what you want is way less important than wanting what you’ve got. And what have you got? You have intimacy with God. You are in the constant companionship of the Trinity, and all of that with just a simple acquiescence to pray and let God be intimately, personally, totally, eternally yours.

Here’s the kicker: That part is the Bonus – and you get it even if you don’t get what you’re praying for! God give you the best part, the bonus part, the greatest possible outcome the moment you raise your heart and mind to heaven and say, “God?” That one little thing thrills him so much that he gifts you with the Joy of his presence before he gifts you with your answer.

Would you like to give him a Bonus? I ask you to consider adding this short prayer to your daily communications with him:

Almighty God: My gift to you today is the love you gave me which I then multiplied in the love I give to others, the lovely and lovable people you gave to me to love. My love for them and my love for you is my gift to you today. Grant that my gift may increase so that it will be more fitting tomorrow.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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