Vol. 8-19 – 05-07-2023 – Answers and Pet Rocks
O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city that is called by Your name. For we do not present our pleas before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake. O my God, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name. –Daniel 9:18-19
Have you ever wondered why God would even answer our prayers? Most think God is obligated to answer because they are good people. Really? Luke and Paul both write that there is no one good; only God (Luke 18:19; Romans 3:23).
Then people become accusers of God. Not fair. Expects too much. I will choose another, but that is not going to work.
How about if we do more good than bad? Surely then God would answer our prayers. I was going to try this, but the scales were being used—you know, the ones that put our sins in balance. Would it be OK to just try and slide in when I die?
If this is a faulty way in which to enter heaven, what about our efforts to manipulate God with our prayers? Yet God says, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing! It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. –Ephesians 2:8
How about this: you have done well this week. Tithed. Attended—twice! Let someone that was in a hurry cut into your line of traffic. That deserves God’s answers—does it not?
Wait. I’m looking while I write this. Surely the Bible addresses this, positively. It was a thought. It is kind of sad—there were at least three wants I had on my list to ask God for.
What if I just say pleeeeeeeeeze. That ought to work. While I was looking, I came across a verse: The prayer of a righteous person has great power (James 5:16).
The problem with prayer is that we are eisegetic. What is that? It is a great word that speaks of our own opinion, taking our own opinion into the Scriptures. We do that more than you might guess.
I also came across the story of the widow who badgered the unrighteous judge until he gave in and granted her petition to the court. There it is. Persistence. That is how you get God to answer your prayers. Keep at it until He answers your prayer just the way you want. Biblical? Sort of.
Whoa. Here is Daniel 19. This is the reason why God answers prayer. We do not present our pleas before You because of our righteousness. But because of Your great mercy.
God answers not because of our greatness, or anything we think we deserve, but because of His great mercy toward us.
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you. –Hosea 10:12
When I managed a large discount store there was always something that was a fad for Christmas. One year it was a pet rock. Imagine. Someone took a front-end loader and scooped up some little rocks, put them in a rock tumbler, then boxed them. The box had little holes in it to tease you into thinking that the pet rock was somehow alive. $5 – thank you very much!
You could hardly get shipments they were selling so fast. At five dollars you made 63% markup. Rocks. People who got them as gifts put them on the corner of their desks or carried them in their pockets. They named them. Would get them out and talk to them. Often, they would complain to them, because they held grudges against someone, and they named their pet rock after that someone.
Rocks. Pet ones. I want you to know that I still have one. I do not have the box. If I did, that pet rock would be worth $200.
When I pastored a mission church in Pennsylvania, I noticed a string of Amish kids building a stone fence. It was amazing how quickly it was built. They were clearing out a field to plant crops and made use of the stones from the field. I had always heard that good fences made good neighbors, and that good fences give you something to do with the rocks you dig out of your garden every spring (actually Robert Frost said that). I do not think the Amish boys were into reading Robert Frost, or making good neighbors but were more concerned with keeping the cows on the farm.
Hosea is a reminder that if we do not tend the soil of our hearts, our hearts are only going to produce stones that are only good for fences.
The One who tills our hearts is the One who created the rocks used in the earth, to begin with. Yet we are reminded that we need to be good stewards—even of our rocks. If we are not careful to manage the little stones they become raging rocks in our life that will weigh us down in sin. You know about sin:
Sin takes us further than we ever planned to go
Sin stays longer than we ever expected it to stay
Sin costs more than we ever wanted to pay.
So, Hosea is begging us to have our soil checked. Examined. What are the stones in our life that can easily turn into rocks we can barely lift? False affections. Sensual movies/books. Gossip. Hoarding. Coveting. You do not need a longer list, although you could easily add to it. God wants to dig them out.
Have you ever noticed that when you intend to grow something (garden, flower, bush, tree) you have to get rid of the rocks? You cannot grow carrots under a rock. Little of anything else as well. It is that way with our spiritual lives as well.
We do not need to buy a ticket, dress in fine clothes, or have a position in the church; nor do we have to use the method of persistence to have God answer our prayers. But we need to be found in His mercy. Rest in His mercy.
Therefore, we must contemplate our prayer life. What is the obstacle? What does Scripture tell us to do with it? We confuse our hearts with the great list (with the little check boxes) that should entitle us to God’s answers. Yet He answers according to His mercies—ask Him for His mercy.
Spiritual growing requires tilling. It begins when we invite God to do a soil check. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my Thoughts! And see if there is any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting! –Psalm 139:23-24
God is willing to remove the stones/rocks that hinder our spiritual growth; we must be ready for the process. One of the ways God reminds us in clearing out our soil is that He wants us to be more like Him (2 Corinthians 5:17).
How is your journey going? What difference has God made? When God brings a stone/rock to your attention. What do you intend to do?
Next time you pray, approach God on the basis of His great mercy.