Back in the early 1970s, with the best intentions, I was trying to do something I thought was for the Lord. I prayed and asked the Lord’s help, but nothing I tried worked. I was blocked at every turn, and eventually, it became apparent that it was the Lord stopping me. I was upset.
My wife, Jo, was working for a Christian bookstore and was in downtown Tampa Florida working at a Christian conference. A minister from England, Tony Nash, whom I had never met, was speaking.
As I drove to the conference to have lunch with my wife, I yelled at the Lord while driving, “Why, Lord? Why?” I consoled myself by saying I was yelling at the circumstances and not at the Lord, but I’m not sure that was true. Still upset, as I arrived at the conference, a man walked out from the meeting and began talking to me. In his British accent, he introduced himself as Tony Nash and then, in answer to my question that I only put to the Lord, told me why. I was so startled I couldn’t speak. How did he know the question I posed to the Lord? And how did the speaker at the meeting get out the door first?
Later, a friend told me he followed Tony from the building because he wanted to talk to him about something and saw the encounter. He said my face turned white when Tony began to speak to me, and I looked shocked. He suddenly stopped in his tracks, realizing that Tony was on the Lord’s business.
I didn’t understand everything that Tony told me that day, but there was one clear message: you can’t have the goods if you settle for what looks like the goods. That has been a reoccurring message the Lord has given me throughout my Christian life. The work I was upset about God not blessing wasn’t the work I was called to.
My life has radically changed over the last couple of months. I feel I am about to start on a new path and asked the Lord to not let me get involved in things that just look like his path. For some reason, I felt to set out to find what God considers really important. Occasionally, God will perform a miracle to confirm the message someone has spoken. I decided to list those subjects to see what God felt was important enough to perform a miracle so that those present would recognize the truth. In the process, I discovered that often I was so taken by the miracle I had ignored the message. I used only incidents where I knew the situation before and after to ensure it was a true miracle.
My list may be very different than what others might find in their experience. After making a list, I was amazed at what was not on the list. Nothing about the nation, politics, denominations, or the things that make them different. Each subject on the list was very personal for those present. The most common topic, as expected, was salvation and God’s desire for everyone to make a public acknowledgment of their faith. This was not only the majority of all the messages but the vast majority. Other subjects involved God’s desire that we love our neighbor. God also wanted us to be ready to forgive genuinely. Also, he did not want us to judge others. But then there was the one that surprised me. The message often was that he wanted us to go into our room, close the door, and pray.
I’ve always considered myself someone who prays a lot. As I go through my day, I pray about what I’m doing. This “prayer on the go” sounds a lot more spiritual than it actually is. None of the miracles confirmed a message about prayer on the go, at meals, or in public prayer. They were about going to your room and closing the door to be alone with God.
I have had those times when I routinely close the door and spend time alone with the Lord. But I’ve discovered that I quickly go back to prayer on the go. I have plenty of excuses to justify that, but the Lord has never been impressed with any of them. The problem with prayer on the go is that I control the subject and conversation. At the end of the day, I get the job done, but I am not changed. Although I don’t normally verbalize it, deep in the back of my mind, there’s a gnawing thought that when I pray, I’m bothering God. God makes it clear in scripture that this is not the case.
There is often awkward silence when I’m alone with the Lord and not doing anything. If I control myself and do not fill it with a prayer list or problems, the subject of the real thing God wants to say to me will come to the front. I was stirred by this renewed realization that God wanted to spend time alone with me, and I believe that it’s given me the first step on the new path he’s called me to.
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