There are days in life when you arise to find the surprising pleasure that nothing is troubling you. For me, those days are the exception rather than the rule, but I will take as many of those easy mornings as God chooses to give. Confession time: I like my life over-easy, my challenges well-done, and my final results with no burnt edges… all washed down with a warm, comforting cup of “Jeff’s-way” before I get to the business of living out the next twenty-four hours. If you are honest, you will admit that you prefer things to go your way also and, given the option, you would likely spend the rest of your days in the absence of drama, discouragement and dilemma. Yet Father knows best, and He typically ensures that each day’s pathway has just enough obstacles so that you will continue to look to Him to show you the direction which leads to His very best for you. I learned something recently from listening to the Psalmist’s plea:
“Gladden the soul of your servant, for to You, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon You, for You answer me.” – Psalm 86:4-7
Let’s do a little math: 4 sentences; 3 requests; 3 mentions of the Lord by name; 5 mentions of the Lord by the word ‘You’…and only 1 mention of the day of his trouble. I believe this to be a healthy ratio of what can be said to God during days of my own difficulty. The Psalmist is praying to God and preaching to himself all at the same time. His primary focus is not his own trouble, whatever that trouble might have been. He is not looking at God through the lens of His problems (which can make God appear small to us). The Psalmist swapped lenses in order to retain his focus. He was sizing up his personal difficulty in view of the greatness of His God. As a result there are a combined total of eight references to God, and only one reference to the Psalmist’s challenging situation. Do we pray with that same ratio these days?
Not to self: God is immeasurably larger than anything happening to me, the feelings associated with my trouble and the prospect of the trouble lasting longer than the opportunity for me to encounter relief. God is not uninformed, unmoved, uninvolved or unfeeling. He’s standing still so I can sense Him quickly, if I’ll only simmer down and adjust my prayer ratio from 600:1 in favor of my problem, to something more appropriate for a redeemed child of the King. Read the specific words of the Psalmist when he requests for God to “listen to my plea for grace”. I absolutely cherish that little prayer because it swallows up the smaller prayers that we are so very tempted to pray in times of tedious trouble. A plea for grace will accomplish so much more than stand-alone prayers like:
“Lord please help me pay my bills….Lord, please change my spouse…Lord, please help me get more than a 81 on my final exam so I can pass the class…Lord, please take away the pain in my hands…Lord, please remove my emotional blues..Lord, please make my enemy over there vaporize into a pink mist…”
In an assertion of trust which seems to acknowledge an awareness that he may not have known the best thing to ask, the Psalmist humbly prays, “You, O Lord…You, O Lord…You…O Lord…listen to my plea for grace…I call upon You, for You answer me.”
It is not most important to remember what to pray, but to remember to Whom you pray. When you remember Him and let your desperation flow, resting in a requested grace, you will find something more precious than His hand moving on your behalf. We will only see that clearly when we take off the short-shot lens, put the wide-angle lens over our minds and hearts, focus on the throne of the Trustworthy One, and push the button of faith in the moment of prayer. After the shutter clicks, and when that moment develops, you will find the face of God smiling on you, His beloved child.