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PRAYER-Part V

E (Effort & Expectation):

There is a terrible misunderstanding of prayer as it concerns faith and its consequent application. Most believe that by simply praying – assuming that all the other factors mentioned in the preceding four articles have been met – and expecting in faith, that is believing that the Lord will indeed grant that request, then, ultimately, what has been visualized and sought after will sooner or later be received. Unfortunately, the principle underlying prayer is not so simple. If it were, there would be a much higher success rate of prayer. Yet, so many tire themselves on lengthy prayers, bruising their knees from night to day, with tears and supplications, crying unto the Lord over one issue or another. And once spent in prayer, they now spend even more energy waiting and looking unto the Lord, keeping watch with the changing mood of the sky, hoping that each time the clouds move, perhaps the hand of God has moved, urging fate to deliver into their hands the reward of their faithful expectations. Yet again, I remind you that God works a little differently.

While the Lord is more than capable of performing miracles, that is Acts of Wonder that perplex the most insatiate agnostic heart and defy all manner of logic and scientific ground, it is rare that the Lord employs the power of miracle to move in the life of any Christian. Again by miracles, I do not speak to the manifestation of the unexpected and the implausible, but rather to the manifestation of the impossible and the inconceivable. To such as the “Parting of the Red Sea,” the “fall of Manna from heaven” and the “Burning Bush that is never consumed,” I infer as acts of miracles; events and occurences that forever belie and defy all wisdom and knowledge of action and consequence.  Such miracles the Lord may perform once or twice, or at the most, thrice, in the life of any individual, but that is usually the extent of it, if ever.  For the remaining duration of our lives, the Lord answers our prayers not with these Acts of Wonder, but with a modus operandi called-

Logical Abnormality:

Logical Abnormality is the more frequent process by which the Lord responds to our prayers; logical in that there is an arithmetic rationale of “cause and effect” whose signature is easily recognized in the appraisal of the entire process from desire to manifestation, while the abnormality comes to play because despite the seeming logic and order of things in the manifestation of the reward, one cannot help but still be arrested by the impact (abnormality) of the final realization of that request. So in basic terms, what we are saying is that with logical abnormality, one is not so much astounded as one is shocked, overwhelmed and moved by the final outcome of that prayer.

Take Coach Larry Brown, head coach of the NBA basketball club, the Detroit Pistons, and winner of the 2004 NBA championship; while his career and pursuit of the championship title has been enduring for some thirty plus years, and as head coach of some eight, nine, NBA teams, the ultimate reward of a championship win was not given to him until recently. Now while no one may question his right to that glory, given his strict work ethics, unbreakable commitment to the sport, and tireless struggle, one – along with the coach – could not help but be overwhelmed by his eventual achievement earlier this year (2004). The abnormality being the fact that he had never succeeded in thirty plus years! Consequently becoming the oldest coach to ever win the title; and the mathematical or logical aspect is the fact that when one considers his past record and hard work, one will conclude that it was inevitable that he reach this pinnacle in the end. He put in the work and consequently reaped the rewards, surely 2+2=4!  

The problem of course is that there are many Christians and many beliefs that subscribe to the notion that by simply praying and believing in God, everything will work itself out.  They go so far as to say that the very demonstration of faith is complete and exclusive reliance on the “miracle” of God’s workmanship, thereby resisting any and all attempts at complementary action to substantiate such faith. For instance there are some who believe that it is faithless and in fact sinful, to seek medical assistance when one falls ill. Such individuals rely exclusively on the belief that God is able and consequently will heal all infirmities, and any human action to cause the same desired end, not only betrays their belief, but insults that capacity of this God- a futilely misguided understanding that has led to the ignorant and unwarranted deaths of many who refused medical treatment because they were waiting on God. And still, they wait. Does that now mean that God is a liar or incapable of performing this good work? Of course not! Instead I draw your attention to the following verse:

James 2:17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

It would appear therefore that what the Lord is saying to us is that while faith is good and indeed required, such faith, without being accompanied by action on our part, will prove to be useless. And this is where the principle of “effort and expectation” comes into play.

 “John 21:3 - Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.  4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." 6 He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish.

 If you would, note these significant points-

 Jesus did not meet Peter or the other disciples in their home while they prayed for the grace and blessings of God. He could have, yet he did not. He also did not even meet them on the way and pour fish into their nets. Instead he met them at the river, in their boats, after they had spent themselves searching. It was there, in the midst of their works, their deeds, and their actions, that he came and blessed the works of their hands.

 Make no mistake; God blesses efforts, not individuals.

 

God will not bless you unless there is a cause to bless you; he will not effect your prayer request unless your complementary actions affect his heart- the principle of “cause and effect” and the application of logical abnormality. Was it normal for these men in this weather to catch so much fish as they had never been occasioned to catch before? No. So, this unusual result was the abnormality. But the cause or action of going out into the river and getting in their boats to go fishing was the methodical aspect that lent logic to the abnormal or infrequent result of blessing! But it is also important to note that what propelled Peter and the others to go fishing that day was the “hope” that their efforts would be rewarded.

 Hope, Faith and Works all work together.

 Hope is the catalyst that keeps you motivated; it gets you fired up and gets you working on whatever it is you have to do. You go to work not because you have received your wages, but motivated by your ‘hope’ to receive your wages at the end of the week or month. What keeps you in your seat at work for eight, nine, ten hours a day is not hope but faith in the honor of your employer and the contract you signed with them.

 So, Hope motivates. Faith sustains. Effort rewards. And nothing begets nothing!

 The disciples did their part and left the rest to God. Hope got them out of their beds and sent them out into the river despite the chill of the morning. Faith kept them in that boat till evening, searching and fishing for what was beginning to look like a doomed quest. Their works, in conjunction with their faith and hope, earned and rewarded them with more fish than they had ever caught and more than they could even carry.

 

In the case of those who believe seeking medical attention is an act in antagonism to their faith, I offer only this verse-

John 3:27 - John answered, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven.”

Consequently, if no one can receive anything except what is given them from heaven, then it is also fair then to conclude that no physician operates of his own wisdom and knowledge, but of the grace and power afforded such a person from heaven. And if God has given this wisdom, then will it not be fair to also conclude that he has offered this medium not as a sinful alternative to prayer, or as an enemy of faith, but rather as an associate and complement to prayer, a conduit of God’s mercy to the world, and  an executive instrument of his will.  So how can it, then, not be wrong to refuse the hand of God, whether it be stretched out through the invincible and indiscernible mysteries of his movement through miracles, or through his movement in the blessed hands of a physician, who, like angels, are messengers and stewards of his will?. Refusing medicine is simply dividing the house of God and setting the two halves against themselves. Can such a spiritually constructed house of faith ever stand against much calamity? I dare say not.

Again, if my dream is to know what it feels like to soar in the air while in an airplane for instance, then I must consequently commit the logical act of leaving my room, leaving my home, seeking some mode of transport to an airport or flying school, fulfilling the necessary requirements such as buying a ticket to board the plane where all this logical sequence of events will then bring me to the abnormality of being able to suspend myself in the air to fly. It is this exact same principle that applies with and to our prayers.

 It is most unreasonable to expect that the mere act of praying will bring us to our desired end. God is not a magician. He will not create an illusion of something out of nothing. Hence the reason why Jesus demanded to have the five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish the crowd offered in Matthew 5, verse 15-20, and multiplied them into baskets-full to feed the crowd. Could Jesus not have commanded fish and bread to fall like rain from the sky? I dare say he could! But to demonstrate that the Lord was not an arbitrary dispenser of blessings, he required an effort of the crowd.  And their effort was what he blessed, not their prayers or their hunger. The logic was to bring the five pieces of bread and two pieces of fish before Christ. The wonderful abnormality was the increase of that little into enough to feed the crowd.

 In the part four, we discussed the word “yield” as it regards yielding to the will of God. However, applying the logic of driving again, in order for us to come across a yield sign on the road, we must first leave our homes, enter our cars, start the engine, release the brake, shift the gear, then navigate our way to the road. It is only after driving to a point that we then see this “Yield” sign. Assuming this road is the road to our desires, needs, wants, healings and blessings, the road will never seek you out in your home, you must seek the road out by first leaving your home. All this denotes action and effort on your part. So you have prayed before leaving your home, asking the Lord to bless you with something. Good. Then you set out on the road and remain on it for a while, driving on what may soon seem like an interminable path until this “Yield” sign suddenly comes up asking you to yield left or right, depending on which side of the major road your minor road connects to it. That voice asking you to yield is God telling you to yield your will and desires to his will. The point where your minor road meets with the major road is the moment readiness meets opportunity, the moment action meets reaction; the moment God’s response meets your prayers and overtakes you with the blessing! And notice that the Lord did not make a road into your home, nor did he dispense the blessings into your lap while you waited in prayer. No. First you committed to action, and then he offered the reaction. In John 21:3, it states that after the disciples had been fishing all day into the evening (driving on that seemingly interminable road), then Jesus stood on a beach and called out to them (this is point where they met Jesus at the yield sign), and after yielding to his will (cast your net on the right side), they received their blessing.

 When you pray, all you do is incline the Lord to stop and take notice. But when you move, then you commit the Lord into action. And your effort thereafter determines to a large extent, considering all the variables as outlined in the previous four articles have been met, the speed and rate of your return or reward. If your effort is lackluster and laggard, a slow lethargic approach, then clearly the Lord also slows down or in fact passes the yield sign long before you arrive there. And for such people, you find yourself arriving at a point and place where you expect to receive the reward because you feel the time and opportunity have been long over due, but you end up with disappointment instead. It is not because God is slow, it is only because your effort is trite and below expectation. So you arrive at the yield post and see no sign of your blessing. Well, it is no reason to despair. It only means you have to work harder and more diligently in order to catch up with the right opportunity or with God at the yield stop ahead.

 So, Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austrian immigrant comes to America with a dream and hope of greatness. He works hard to achieve a body befitting an action hero in America. But he is told he must learn to speak English- another missed meeting with fate (God) at the yield sign. But he does not despair. Instead he gets a coach and works hard to learn the language. Then he is told by the Hollywood play makers that he has great potential (meaning you are close to your goal), but you need to soften or even lose your accent- another missed meeting at the yield sign. Again, he does not despair. Instead he works hard with an accent coach and softens – as best as he could – his accent, at least becoming comprehensible in his speech pattern. And then he starts commanding twenty to twenty five million dollars a picture. He is a bona fide star. But there is more. His real goal is for political office. And he would reach that yield sign again, where opportunity comes to dare your readiness. And boy was he ready.  And because of his readiness and effort, he is now the governor of the State of California- a distant dream and great inspiration to all immigrants alike. It is easy to say as the Nike slogan reads- “Impossible is nothing.” But only when the effort matches the request. There must be effort on your part. And what you put in it is what you get out of it. Notice Jesus did not bless fish and give them steak, nor did he bless bread to offer them rice. What they put in is what they received only multiplied by the abundant grace and favor of God.

 No matter what your dream may be in life- as long as it is God’s will for you – as has been discussed previously and will be discussed in a separate article, it can and should be yours. God is ready. The rest is entirely up to you. Pray as if only by prayer will you ever receive and achieve that dream. Then work and tire yourself in the pursuit of that dream as if only by your efforts will you achieve it. Dare God to move and see how mighty the results.   For any dream, after assuring yourself that it is in line with God’s will for you, determine the human factors or effort required to achieve that dream. For instance, a gymnast must go into strict physical and mental conditioning to even be in the running. A bachelor seeking a beautiful, intelligent, hardworking CEO for a wife must at the very least make God’s work easy by ensuring he also has something tangible to offer in return. You want good looks in a partner? Then ensure you offer the same. You want intelligence and career in your partner? Then at the very least be able to offer wisdom and ambition in return. You want to be loved passionately by your spouse? Then you better be able to offer the same passionate love in return. Is it a promotion at work that requires a certain educational degree? Then ensure you have that degree or enroll in school and put yourself on the way to that degree and watch God meet you at the yield sign up ahead. But more often than not, we offer God a cubic zirconia and expect a six-carat diamond in return. You don’t harvest oranges from apple trees. Understand that.

 Expectation – a combination of hope and faith - is the unyielding hope that never ceases to believe and expect that eventually, at the appointed time, what you are praying for and seeking earnestly will be yours. Expectation is the inability to lose belief in your worthiness and right to that blessing. Because the moment you stop expecting, the moment you cease to hope and keep faith in God’s promise and your right and claim to that promise, then you spiritually send a signal to God that screams, “Don’t waste your time on me, Lord. There are thousands of others more deserving than me. So just turn around and make better use of your time in finding those others.” And turn around he does. A writer who stops to write and send his work out because of numerous rejections sends this same message to God. Shakespeare was not discovered because he dreamt of being a writer all his life; he was discovered because in addition to his dream, he committed his efforts into the action of writing- plays after plays, sonnets after sonnets, poems after poems, until God and man were left no choice but to allow greatness move into his life. It would never have happened, even if he possessed all the praying powers of Elijah and Elisha put together, if he didn’t write a single play or sonnet.

 Hannah, the blessed wife of Elkanah in the Book of 1 Samuel, chapter 1 and 2, found herself barren for quite some time. Wretched and hungered for justice, she would dress up every year, come up to Shiloh with her husband where she would pray and pray until she became physically exhausted. And so it was every year, without once slowing down, she would rise up in the morning, dress up and take that journey to Shiloh where she always arrived at the yield to no avail. But she never gave up. And then one day, while she was in the temple at Shiloh, praying with so much ferocious hunger and commitment to purpose, the Lord looked upon her and promised her through the prophet Eli that he would meet her this same time the following year at the next yield post. And he did. And she conceived. And not one child, but seven, in the end.

 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find…For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth... (Matthew 7:7-8 KJV)

 Taking a look at this popular verse above, you will notice that Jesus did not close the issue after saying, “Ask,” but in fact went further to demand that we “Seek,” requiring movement and effort on our part. Then, and only then, did he declare that we would find or receive the reward of our effort. ‘Ask and it shall be given to you’ simply denotes God’s recognition of your request and the moment a place and time of fulfillment is appointed to your request; not the actual and physical receipt of the reward, which he dispenses into our hands only after we have committed the physical act and effort of seeking, consequently necessitating the statement “Seek and ye shall find” thereafter. Clearly the summation of this powerful verse is that our request must always be matched and accompanied by complementary action, without which our prayers to God becoming devalued and powerless.

 

Remember, expectation is only logical when the effort has been put in place. Without effort – and the quality of your effort also determines the quality and sometimes quantity of the reward – expectation becomes barren, pointless and useless. Work for God and he, too, will work for you.

 Your Prayer + Effort * Expectation = God’s Reaction, Response and Reward!

 In Truth,

 -Asst. Evangelist Damilola Olorunnisola, the Humble Servant of God- CCC- VOG

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