March 22, 2014

Waiting and working

After a long week of busyness and a couple of toss and turn nights, I woke this morning feeling like eight hours sleep was not enough. However, I got up and opened Selwyn Hughes’ devotional guide. The feature verses for today end with these lines, so familiar and like warm oil on my heart . . .

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28–31)

But this is not about being renewed so I can be at leisure. It is about praying for renewal so I can do whatever God nudges me to do, even to be part of the answer to my own prayers.

Prayer brings peace to anxious hearts, but James, one of the most practical books of the Bible, says that faith is basically useless if it does not result in action . . .

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (James 2:14–16)

Sometimes the action is not about doing things for others, but doing some personal house-cleaning. I know I’m of little use to God if my life is cluttered with sin and selfishness. For that, God says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

If I wonder what needs to be done, I only have to look around me to see a multitude of human need. The morning news is filled with opportunities to be useful to those in need. Some of them are outlined in these lines from Jesus . . .

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31–40)

Today’s devotional reading also included a fragment of a poem, author unknown. I found it on the Internet. It is a discussion between two farmers, both pray, but one has better crops than the other. The poet is someone named Morris, and I’ve copied the last few lines below . . .

"It's well to pray both night and morn,
As every farmer knows;
But the place to pray for plentiful corn
Is right between the rows."

"You must use your hands while praying, though,
If an answer you would get;
For prayer-worn knees and a rusty hoe
Never raised a big crop yet."

"An' so I believe, my good old friend,
if you mean to win the day;
From sowing clean to the harvest end
You must hoe as well as pray."
— Morris

Christians call this ‘putting show leather’ to your prayers. Instead of feeling tired about the day ahead, I need to get my shoes on, praying in the process and obeying those nudges to get busy.

(To read the entire poem, go here)

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