If You Only Pray One Thing...

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My daughter London wrote a story last week for a contest at her school. She dictated it to her dad.

It started out with a princess and wound up a sermon. That’s how we Gerhardts roll.

Anyway, the sermon/story was about God being with us and about hard things, how hard things can be good. London “wrote”: 

Sometimes I feel like sometimes things can be difficult. But in your heart, things can be blooming.

Sometimes things can be difficult, but they can be also very, very valuable to you.

I was sitting at the table as she spoke her story to her dad, and right about here I started crying. I cried for joy, because my child, just barely in kindergarten, knows how God works, redeeming pain and hurt for His glory. She knows He shapes us in the heat of hardship. She’s five and she knows what (and Who) makes hearts bloom.

Beautiful. 

But that’s not the only reason I cried. I also cried because she’s five [FIVE] and she knows “sometimes things can be difficult.” She knows from experience…

  • She wants to obey me but she doesn’t. She weeps: “Mom, I really want to make wise choices. I just can’t.”
  • She wants friends at school and struggles to make them. She asks, “Will you be my friend” and children look in her vulnerable blue eyes and say, “No.”
  • She wants to play with her pet rat forever and he dies while she’s on vacation and she cries on a plane with strangers and sings at his backyard funeral.
  • She prays for an end to the war in Syria when she hears about dying children on the radio and asks every day after that, “Is it over?”

She may be five, but she knows, “Sometimes things can be difficult.”

I’m thirty two and I’d go so far as to say “Most times things can be difficult.”

My friend Tina’s mom died yesterday, suddenly and unexpectedly. Tina is twenty four and trying to plan a funeral. She asked me who she needed to talk to about the obituary, and a part of me sunk—because she’s too young to ask questions like that. But I knew the answer because I’d filled out my first obituary form at twenty one. 

My friend Tim’s wife died this morning. Her death was neither sudden nor unexpected. Tim is grown, mature, wise. Still… Is it easier for Tim to fill out the form?

Before I saw Tina, my daughter Eve and I went to the Dell Children’s Hospital to see one of her friends. He was born with Spina Bifida and even a simple fever can require hospitalization. Just in case. We walked past rooms and rooms—so many rooms for so many sick children. 

My heart sinks as I think of the times things are difficult—when a marriage is bad, when the money runs out, when a house won’t sell, when family members abuse you, when the kids won’t stop screaming, when you can’t have kids, when your church is lifeless, when your church is bitter, when loneliness mounts, when the washing machine stops working, when you lose your job, when you hate your job, when depression or divorce or death crashes on your head like a wave of so many bricks.  

Sometimes, I feel defeated just trying to find my missing keys. Again.

Maybe you’re expecting me to say, at this point in the post, that I have an answer. And likely, you’re expecting (from the title) something about prayer…

I’d like to say that in prayer we find a solution, or at least a solution hotline. But in all the years I’ve been praying, the difficulties have never stopped coming. They have been redeemed. They have been eased. Sometimes, for the moment, erased. But never have they ceased their steady assault.

In prayer, tired and weak, we people of this fallen world seek the presence, provision and intervention only our God can offer. We ask Him to strengthen us and comfort us and help us and fight for us. 

Ultimately though, we need more than that. And we often forget to ask.

Let me explain…

It’s like we’re  in a pit. And things are bad in the pit. So we ask for help. And we get it. We get lights to see by and blankets to keep us warm and friends to visit and maybe we get an awesome book full of helpful stories about other people who lived in a pit. We find purpose in the pit and help other people who’re struggling with pit life.

And pretty soon the pit doesn’t seem so bad. It’s hard, living in a pit. But we can bear it.

And maybe we get so used to living this not-too-bad pit life that we forget what we really need: to be rescued

I am thankful for a God who provides my daily needs and walks with me through the valley of the shadow of death, who shines light in darkness and washes clean the soiled, Who will always, always help.

Praise God, gracious Giver. 

But.

I don’t just need help. I need full-blown, final, once-for-alltime rescue. 

And that’s why I pray, without a hint of hesitation,

"Lord, come quickly."

When I was a kid my church sang the song “It Is Well With My Soul” a lot. The point of the song was that no matter what happens, good or bad, “It is well with my soul.” 

In the last verse, the writer says, “The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.”

Back then I thought the words “even so” meant we’d prefer God didn’t come tomorrow, but if he did we’d be okay with that, too.

Now, I think the “even so” is tongue in cheek. Because, goodness gracious, a rescue? That’s not “well with my soul”; it’s awesome, cartwheels and fireworks, wonderful.

Read the New Testament and you’ll see that Christians are a waiting people. We live in constant anticipation of the coming of our King, the fulfillment of our purpose, the climax of history.

James says, “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.”

Paul says, “We wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Jude says, “You wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”

The point is that prayer for comfort and strength and whatnot is good and will help as we wait. But THE prayer, the most powerful thing we could pray, the thing that would change everything, is “Lord, Come quickly.”

The best thing that could happen tomorrow for the people of God is His coming.

It’s better than healing. And better than personal growth and maturity. It’s better than financial stability and better than happiness. 

The book of Revelation, the last book in our Bible, ends with Jesus saying “Look, I’m coming soon.” And with the Spirit and the church calling to Him, “Come!”  In the second to last verse John prays, “Come Lord Jesus.” And it’s as if he’s begun a prayer that we continue, looking to the sky, reminding God of His promise…

Lord.

Come quickly.