Prayer Corrects Myopia

Why pray if God already knows what is on your mind? Does prayer change God, or does prayer change you? Philip Yancey addressed these questions and many more in Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?

As Yancey noted, we often act as if we expect God to serve us. We tell God what we want him to do for us. We are disappointed in God when God does not answer our prayers.

Prayer helps correct myopia.

Philip Yancey

I close my eyes and talk to the invisible God. My mind is incapable of grasping his magnificense, though I see glimpses in the beauty of creation. I hear glimpses of his glory in the sounds of music and birds singing. I consider all of his works, and I am awed by his Almighty power and intelligence.

I see life from my own limited point of view. When I pray to the Creator of the universe, I realize how small and insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things. I am one of countless creatures on his planet, and there is so much I can not see and do not know.

I am humbled.

I am relatively old in human terms, but my life is just a blip on God’s timeline. I live in the moment. I can’t see the future. I can’t see how things will work out. Prayer teaches me to trust God’s plans and his timing.

I trust God to work things out for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

2 Peter 3:8

And yet, I still pray as if God needs me to bring the world’s problems to his attention. Like David, the psalmist, I complain to God about evil people who seem to get away with cruelty, lies, and other wrongdoing. I pray about injustice and ask him to intervene and to make things right.

I talk to God about issues in my own life. The stresses of work. The heartache of rejection. Concerns that seem trivial when compared to the problems others have. And yet, I know God cares about everything that affects me.

With other prayer warriors, I pray for people in need of healing, comfort, or protection. The needs are never-ending. Broken bodies, broken hearts.

Prayer corrects my near-sightedness. Prayer gives me the right perspective. Prayer helps me see other people as souls made in the image of God. Prayer aligns my heart with the heart of God.

Philip Yancey wrote that we are God’s agents on earth. Instead of just asking God to do something, ask what you can do for God.

An Ordinary Story?

When I lay down to sleep at night, I begin my prayer with thanks for the day. When I have a bad day, it’s not easy to give God thanks for it. Several weeks ago, I had that kind of day. I had taken a break from work to run errands. When I got home, I couldn’t find my glasses. I was really upset because I had only had these glasses for a few months and they were not cheap!

I had driven to Walgreens that day. I wear prescription sunglasses when I drive, then switch to prescription eyeglasses when I go inside. So I knew I had my glasses on when I shopped. What could have happened to them from the time I left the store to my arrival at home? I looked in my car to see if they fell out of my purse. I called Walgreens to ask if they had been found. They weren’t there. I drove back to Walgreens to see for myself if I had dropped them next to my car.

That night, I prayed that God would help me find my glasses, even though I knew that if I dropped them, they were most likely broken. The next day, I thought to myself, I should look under my car. There they were! One arm was cracked, but the lenses were untouched. How fortunate that I didn’t drive over the lenses when I drove into the garage! I was relieved.

I took my broken glasses to my optician to see if they could be fixed. He made a temporary repair but said the repair wouldn’t last long-term. If I bought the same frames, he said they would put the lenses in them.

My husband found the same model of frames online. The company didn’t have the same color as my broken pair, but there were several other colors, so I ordered a pair. I did not get an email confirming my order. That concerned me. I returned to the website using my browsing history and printed out my order.

When neither the order nor the order confirmation had arrived in a week, I emailed the company. No response. I called and spoke to Jonathan, the optician who runs the website. Sounding frazzled, he told me he had shipped them. When the frames didn’t come after another week, I called again. This time, Jonathan said he wondered whether he had sent them to the wrong address. In the next phone call, Jonathan said that he didn’t have the color I ordered, but he could send me another color. At this point, I didn’t care about the color. When the frames finally arrived, I was so relieved!

This is just an ordinary story, isn’t it? People lose things, even valuable things, every day. But when something you value is lost, you will look everywhere to find it. You will be so excited when you find it, you will want to tell your friends. No matter how damaged your precious thing is, you will do whatever you can to restore it to its rightful condition.

That’s how God views us. We are so precious to him. He will not stop pursuing us until we are found. We may appear damaged and beyond repair, but not to God.

Read Luke 15. Those who are lost are precious to God. Jesus told three stories to get this point across.

Rejoice with me. My precious child was lost, and now he is found!

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Luke 15:10 NIV

The Antidote to Envy

The tenth commandment says you shall not covet your neighbor’s house or anything that belongs to your neighbor. I don’t covet money or possessions. I tend to envy certain people for their achievements – like classmates who have done very well or colleagues with impressive titles.

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:4, NIV

In his book Signature Sins: Taming the Wayward Heart, Michael Mangis says that envy is about “one’s place in the world.” Envy reflects dissatisfaction with who God made you to be. Envy is never content. When you envy another, you may think that God is withholding what you deserve.

There are many downsides to envy besides ungratefulness. Envy blinds you to your own gifts. Envying someone else is a huge waste of time and energy, like chasing the wind. Even worse, envy can lead to other sins.

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

James 3:16, NIV

Sins have opposite virtues. Mangis calls these opposites antidotes. Antidotes to envy include gratitude, contentment, and satisfaction.

I choose to fight envy with affirmations of my worth and praise to my Creator.

I am uniquely and wonderfully made. (The use of the word “fearfully” in Psalm 139:14 has always puzzled me.)

Thank you, God, for my unique talents and interests, for my spiritual gifts, and for the fruit the Spirit is producing in me. You created me with a purpose far more important than any career.

I am a beloved child of God.

Thank you, Father, for choosing me as your own. You know my name! I am precious to you. Thank you for loving me so much that you want to transform me. You discipline the ones you love.

I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Salvation is my most precious gift. Thank you, Lord, for redeeming me. You paid the ultimate price for my sins and you are my best friend.

Affirmations and praise are good, but I must also change the way I view other people. Regard no one from a worldly point of view. When I am tempted to envy others, may I instead lift them up in prayer.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:14-19

Am I trying to please people?

At the beginning of the year, I prayerfully made my New Year’s resolution: please God above everyone else and reject the world’s definition of worthiness. The “and” makes it seem like two resolutions. It’s really one; I can’t live a life that is pleasing to God if I continue to seek validation from people.

Since then, I’ve read devotions and scripture that speak to the issues I’ve struggled with. I’ve been busy and haven’t made the time to really reflect on my resolution. Now, it is the Lenten season, and I hope to use this time to think deeply about what God wants me to change this year.

This scripture from Galatians is blunt and not easy to hear. If I am trying to win the approval of people, I am not a servant of my Lord and Savior.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10

Lord Jesus, put this question on my heart daily. Who am I trying to please?

Anxiety Dreams

Last month, I dreamed I was working in downtown Denver. (I worked there about ten years.) I was hurrying down the 16th Street Mall to catch a bus to take me home to the south suburbs. I got on the bus and tried to find a schedule, but there wasn’t one. The bus flew (like a plane) over Coors Field. It flew west of I-25, then headed south. I didn’t recognize the route. Eventually, the flying bus headed east, and I recognized a high school. The bus finally stopped at an office complex. I got off the bus, but I could still see the passengers who stayed on the bus and where they were going. The whole time, I was worried because I had to let my husband know where I was so he could pick me up.

The next night, I dreamed I was in school taking a history test. The teacher warned us to watch our time to make sure we were on track to finish the test. We were given a stack of paper with quotes or statements, and we had to answer whether each statement was true or false. Each page had a one-word clue. When done answering the questions, we were supposed to arrange the clues from the right answers into one long sentence. I was shaking with fear that I wouldn’t finish the test on time. (History is not my best subject.) As I struggled to answer the questions, a few of the other kids were going up to the chalkboard to assemble their words. I couldn’t even tell how much time I had left because every time I looked at my watch, it said the same thing.

I know why I was having stressful dreams. I am an accountant. January is the start of my busy season. I get stressed by the deadlines. My dreams reflect my anxiety.

I have always been fascinated by dreams. I am amazed at how active the brain is when we sleep. Having a couple of stressful dreams in a row got me to wondering about anxiety dreams. In an article about How to Prevent Anxiety Dreams, I learned that when you are stressed, you spend more time in REM sleep, which is when we dream. When you are stressed, your body produces more cortisol.

The article suggested writing anxiety dreams down to help make sense of your thoughts and emotions. Take some deep breaths. Talk to someone. Make a plan. I wrote my dreams down. I told myself, this is temporary. This too, will pass. You’ve been through stressful times at work before and everything got done. Even when things went wrong, you got through them. And I reminded myself that if I needed to, I could put in extra hours on the weekend.

An article about common stress dreams says that stressful dreams can be beneficial. If you dream that you’ve lost something or you’re late or you can’t finish the test, your brain may be rehearsing things that might go wrong. This helps you deal with stress in real life. In a study, students who had stressful dreams did better than those who didn’t.

Writing my dreams down helped process my anxiety. Having a plan and knowing that I have some control over my situation helped me cope with my stress. Having a trusted friend to talk to, even in the middle of the night – that’s even better! Prayer brings a peace that transcends all understanding.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7