Umbrellas

I read a reference the other day to a little girl who took her umbrella to a meeting to pray for rain. The writer was urging us to “truly and practically expect the Lord to bless us”. (Spurgeon, Chequebook of the Bank of Faith: November 4th)

I struggle with this.

The question is: How much is my struggle a right desire to add a wise “yes, but we need to submit our requests to God’s will..” and how much reflects what is lacking in my understanding of, my pleasure in, and my worshipping of who God is?

Do I despise so much the error that suggests that “if you had just had more faith than….” that I don’t examine the limited view I hold of the God I have faith in?

I love the imagery that favourably compares a shaky faith in a strong bridge, with a strong faith in a shaky bridge, but that little girl carrying her umbrella over that strong bridge has challenged me. Could my unexpectant prayer life be revealing a shakiness in my view of God?

God is good, God is gracious, God is gentle, God is great, God is glorious, God is generous. I believe all these truths, I have experienced them, I know them, and I see them declared in God’s word and revealed so clearly in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

But….

…while they sit so happily and alliteratively next to each other in a list… I find it hard to have these truths dwell as equals and allies in my deepest reactions to the moments when God doesn’t ‘send rain’.

I am ashamed to admit the following trains of thought: Yes – God is good, God loves me, God is powerful, but it is still not raining and given the lack of rain why go on asking – at least with any hope? If he wants to send it he will… and, knowing him, he probably won’t – he’ll want to teach me through hardship and make me rely on him, because that is the sort of thing he does…..

Oh forgive me my loving Father, forgive me. Forgive me the times when I have let good convictions about your sovereignty and your right to rule become twisted to obscure your kindness and goodness and generous love.

You see, I tend to be a ‘leave the umbrella at home’ sort of person. In fact – never mind taking an umbrella – sometimes I forget (or fear?) to even ask for the rain! After all – let’s not be simplistic – we know prayer isn’t a matter of simply asking and getting. Don’t forget – God knows best and he does what he wants and usually that means I don’t get what I ask for.

Ouch!

Although, technically, if you replaced the word ‘usually’ with ‘sometimes’ the above statement is theologically sound – it’s relationally disastrous. It opens the door to bitterness, invites it in and puts the kettle on.

Could it be that I have been under-simplifying prayer and falling short of (or rather ‘tall of’!) the child-like prayer we are called to in Scripture?  Have you noticed that children tend to go on asking for things from their parents? They realise that being asked is part of their parents’ job! “No you can’t have a pony” doesn’t stop them asking for something five minutes later, or even alter their expectations of getting that thing. They just throw requests out there as they occur.

So I think it is time to just start taking my umbrella with me when I pray for rain because God is a God who can and loves to bless his children to the glory of his name in answers to their prayers.
BUT…
– not a caveat sort of ‘but’, not a “Here we go, I thought that was too good to be true” sort of ‘but’, but a “there’s more, make sure you have the whole picture!” sort of ‘but’.

BUT…
God is a God who knows best how to bless his children to the glory of his name and he will do it no matter what. This is NOT a convenient loophole, it is a wonderful, though humbling, reality. Nothing will stop God giving us his best. We need to take our umbrellas AND be content to carry them home dry.

So, on Spurgeon’s prompting I’m going to ask God for help to “truly and practically expect [him] to bless [me]”  I’m going to ask for help to be a card carrying umbrella carrier – not to poke and manipulate him with, not to add weight to my prayers, not to suggest that I know better than him, but because he is my Father and he loves me and he wants me to ask confidently. Confident not in the answer, but in his mighty, all powerful, all wise love. I imagine I will often find myself carrying a dry umbrella home (God’s plan being even better than rain), and sometimes the weight of it will be almost unbearable – but I will not be carrying it alone because God is good, God is gracious, God is gentle, God is great, God is glorious, God is generous and underneath are his everlasting arms.

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