Sunday, June 22, 2014

Praying for Lost Keys

Gena almost did not make her plane this morning, and I shifted into prayer mode.

Gena had a 6:30 a.m. flight. I travel all the time, and I confidently told her last night that Sunday mornings are easy, and since she was not checking bags, she would be fine getting to the airport at 5:45. In fact, there were a multitude of airline-created and airport-signage-created issues, and sure enough, USAir was paging her to get to her gate within three minutes or she would miss her flight.

I was getting cell phone reports every few minutes, and in between those calls, I was praying for God to intervene with the airline, the airport, the other passengers in the security line, the TSA agents, and anyone else God could think of to get her on the plane. It worked. She made the flight.

There are no atheists in foxholes, nor are there Christians in need who are not willing to offer up a quick demand. When the crisis of the moment arises (as Frank Lewis would say, nearly all of these are not really crises - not even close), we who know God are quick to pound on his proverbial door and ask Him if, pretty please, He would stop the normal turning of the world so that our mistakes will not come to their natural fruition. I am a big pray-er when I lose my keys. I know that God knows where they are, and I bug Him about showing them to me. When I can't find my car in the parking lot, or when I have misjudged traffic between where I am and where I need to be, I start praying fast and furious.

The purpose of this blog is not to indict our lost-keys-prayers. I believe God wants to help us with little things - after all, His eye is on the sparrow. My point is different -- now that Gena is safely buckled into her seat, I am struck by how often praying for the relatively insignificant but immediate takes precedence over praying for the crucial but ongoing. How often do I really pray for world peace, for wisdom for national leaders, for deliverance for the poor? How often do I take the time to pray for the spiritual salvation of those who are lost? For that matter (lip service aside), how often am I really involved in heartfelt conversation with God about the long-term welfare of my children, of their future spouses, of my wife?

But I almost never forget to bless the food in front of me.

Is the issue that we don't think God can handle the big things, that He is limited to finding our keys and easing our headaches? I don't think so. I think the problem is not that we don't think God can handle it, but rather that we talk ourselves out of thinking that God wants to handle it.

Pastors and theologians tell us that, since we trust God with the little things, we ought to be able to trust Him with the big things. One response to that syllogism is that I am not sure our lost-keys-prayers are really evidence of trusting God so much as they are foxhole cries when we do not see any other immediate answer. And that is a shame.

God is in fact able and willing to hear our requests, both big and little. He does in fact answer prayers, and He is in fact concerned with the welfare - both immediate and ongoing - of His children and His world. In the immediate, we call on God without letting our all too human distrust get in the way. For the ongoing big stuff, though, we have time to consider whether or not God is really concerned with our little lives, if people deserve what is happening to them because of their own bad choices, whether or not we should take responsibility ourselves for our situations, and whether we should be bothering God with our earthly problems.

Perhaps we should learn something from our crisis-mode selves. Perhaps our kneejerk response to lost keys and almost-missed flights should remind us what we know deep inside - that we are wandering children who need the daily help of our Father.

I am glad Gena made her flight. Now, I am going to take some time to think about, and talk to God about, how God can help in Syria and in my kids' lives and in my marriage. I am going to pray for some people, by name, who need to feel the touch of Jesus. Keys are not the only lost things in the world.