We’ve been active here at Potter’s House for a little over 2 weeks now. I have made somewhere close to 50-60 visits to people’s homes for prayer.
Let me set the scene:
Most of the families that we are working with are considered high-risk families. They are high-risk because of their employment (scavenging in the garbage) or lack thereof. They are high-risk because of health-related issues. They are considered high-risk because of their living situation, cardboard and laminate houses on dirt floors.
When you walk into someone’s home your mind is flying. You are looking around examining the situation, asking questions, trying to get a full, honest picture of the situation to see what needs can potentially be met.
On top of that, you are praying for lots of discernment. You never know what has happened in the last few weeks for each of these families. Has someone recently passed away? Is there abuse? Has the husband started drinking again? Are the husband and wife even together anymore?
After gathering information and making small talk we get to the point of the visit. We ask some diagnostic questions to see where a family is spiritually. We then let them know that we’d like to pray for them and see if they have any prayer requests.
We take down their prayer requests and I either pray for the family or nod to someone else to pray.
Something amazing happens when we are done praying. Me, being the sinful man that I am, am thinking about the exit. What will I say? How will I encourage? Who is coming next?
Almost every family has responded the same. They look up, through tear-filled eyes, and can hardly whisper “thank-you.”
You’d think that I’d catch on. “Justin, prayer is important! Prayer matters!” But, I am kind of a slow learner.
The terrifying, appalling conclusion that I keep coming to is that I don’t believe in the power of prayer, and the people I’m serving do!
Don’t get me wrong, in theory I totally believe that prayer does something. I’ve been told all my life that I am supposed to ask God, our Father, who loves to give us good gifts.
But, in the end, the rational, cerebral, un-emotional, results-driven American wins out in my mind. Because, when I’m really honest, I am thinking about the next group of people that I am going to help.
That’s the MORE terrifying conclusion. The reason that I hardly believe in the power of prayer is because I’m the messiah that I’m offering to people. It’s not the power of a miracle-producing, all-powerful, all-loving, all-good God…it is me! So, instead of praying more often, trusting that God is sufficient, I rush through my repetitions and start thinking about the next family. Because, at the end of the day, prayer is the expression of my humble and submissive trust in God – lack of prayer is the expression of self-sufficiency.
Now, I hope that you aren’t as arrogant and self-sufficient as I am. But, examine your situation. How quickly do you turn to your problem-solving mode? Is it more quickly than you fall to your knees in prayer? When you pray, is it just a lob, fingers-crossed, but your real hope is in the solution you’ve already started to form in your mind? And what about that solution that you’ve started to form, if it is successful, who gets the credit? What is the proportion of prayer to decision-making strategy in your life?
I’d venture to say that, even in your own life situations, you are your own functional messiah. Sure, God saved you for that eternity part, but it’s up to you to deal with the day-to-day until we get there. Or it’s up to you to keep God happy. Or it’s up to you to make your family happy. Or it’s up to you…it’s up to you…it’s up to you.
You get the point.
I always have to go back to what I know, especially in the darkness that envelops the communities we work in: we desperately need someone bigger, stronger, and wiser than us to step into every corner of this world. We are weak, and feeble, with nothing to offer of our own. And our good, and loving Father has promised that He is here and He hears. It probably won’t look like what we wanted it to. But, the cross is our steady, constant hope that God is not inactive. God is active. God actively hates the suffering of his children, and he actively hates injustice. He hates them so much that He was crushed so that, one day, they may no longer exist. And He has promised that, today, He’s with us. He’s with us, and active, and ready, like a generous father, to give us good gifts.
The message for Justin is this: stop trying to be Messiah, and the message for you is the same.
Truly, mere humans make terrible messiahs.