Gratitude for Answered Prayer

Here’s an understatement: Life is busy. If you are like me, the 168 hour week you are presently experiencing is only about half of what you need. Sometimes busyness and tight deadlines cause me to perform in a less than considerate way. I rush out in the morning without kissing Bonnie. I don’t engage in meaningful conversation with friends. I forget to pet the dog.

And, sadly, sometimes I forget to thank God.

There have been so many desperate moments in my life (as I would suspect there have been in yours) when I was left sucker-punched and gasping for air. In the Retooled and Refueled Seminar I speak of the time we learned that our daughter, Megan, had a growth on her spine. The day that we learned that our largest client had filed bankruptcy and the future of our firm was in some question. The doctor’s visit that began with the words, “This isn’t going to be a very pleasant meeting.” Stop for a moment and force your mind back to a similar situation in your own life. Maybe you don’t have to think very hard. Maybe your immediate response is, “Steve, I’m in the middle of one of those moments right now! And, frankly, it doesn’t feel like a moment—it feels like an eternity.”

If your behavior in such experiences is like mine, three things may be true. First, in the middle of the storm you are completely and totally given over to God. You suddenly become very religious. You spend every moment you can spare breathing a prayer. The minute you get home you rush to your bedroom, shut the door, and fall before God pleading with him for the help you cannot supply from your own strength. Maybe you are even tempted to “bargain”

with God: “Father, if you will only grant me this one request, I will never do this or that again.” At first you worry about the way you form the words of your prayer. “Am I saying this correctly—did I include all the ‘right’ words to get through?” But soon, your prayer goes from clearly formed sentences to moans and whimpers that can only be understood by the Spirit of God. You feel totally wasted when you finally stand to leave the room. You wonder, “Did God hear me? What will he do?” Then, immediately you chastise yourself for having such a “faithless” thought—and hope it doesn’t somehow negate the prayer you’ve just prayed.

Sometimes days pass seemingly with no answer—no resolution. Often the storm lasts for weeks or even months.

However, in time, the second stage comes—a new morning! The Psalmist says, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (90:14, niv). The phone rings and it’s the doctor’s nurse (thankfully not the doctor himself) to tell you that the tests all came back negative. Or the broker calls to tell you that the horrible loss

in your retirement account was their mistake, and by day’s end all of your money will be refunded. Or your spouse finally comes home with tears in his eyes, forgives you, and you melt into one another’s arms. You are so relieved you hardly know what to do.

This is when we enter stage three. As life returns to normal, so do we. The shopping still has to be done. Then there’s the Tuesday night bowling league. And don’t forget the kids’ soccer games. Suddenly, without even realizing it, we have put God back in the closet of our mind. We know he’s there, but we treat him like a “tool” that is at one moment urgently needed then, with the emergency passed, put away and forgotten.

Too often this is exactly the way I’ve treated God. When the pressure and the passion have passed, my prayers end. It’s as though someone has snatched me from the waves in the middle of an ocean and hoisted me aboard the safety of his ship—and all I do is ask, “Which way is it to the shuffleboard court?” Following is a passage from Luke that is at once one of the happiest and one of the saddest passages in the Bible. Note the part I have put in italics. “As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him…calling out, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’…he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough…Jesus said, ‘Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God?’” (Luke 17: portions of 12-19, The Message)

My God is not some tool in the back of the closet of my life. He is not my cosmic bell-hop. God is God. He loves me and hopes that I will love him back.

As the years of my life have fallen away, I’ve become increasingly dedicated to what military people call debriefing. When a mission is completed it is SOP (that’s Standard Operating Procedure for you non-military types) to re-think, re-live, re-evaluate, and re-examine. It is time to reassess and remember all that has happened. And it is time to give credit to whom credit is due. In some cases individuals receive medals and awards.

I believe that it is my privilege and my duty not to forget God when morning breaks and the sun begins to shine again. When God has brought me through a storm, it seems the least I should do is to honor him with intentionality. I need to return to that same spot on the floor that soaked my tears just yesterday as I pled with God to lend the help that only he could supply. I need to muster the same level of passion that I experienced during the crisis. But, this time, turn it into joyful, abundant, abandoned praise, worship, and thanks. We have great biblical precedent for this too. When God had blessed the Israelites’ prayer for protection from their enemies, King David didn’t return to the daily grind without praising God lavishly. “David…danced before the LORD with all his might…with shouts and the sound of trumpets… (When David’s wife) Michal…saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in

her heart…David said to Michal…‘I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.’ And Michal…had no children to the day of her death. (2 Samuel: portions of verses 14-23, niv)

So the question is pretty easy. When God blesses me—do I want to end up like David (a man after God’s own heart), or like Michal? The choice is mine.

 

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