Monday, May 2, 2011


I like to think of myself as an analytical problem solver.  Even better, I am a strategic solution finder.

What goals do we have?  What are the best ways to attain those goals?  What problems might we encounter?  How can we minimize those problems?  How can we maximize the benefits to reach the goal?

I even find solutions for God, not that he's asking me for advice.  He seems to like doing his own thing.

This drives people like me crazy.  By people like me, I mean people who crave logic and reason.  Who like to know why.  Who like to systematize the world.  And to be honest, part of my strategic solution finding is a craving for structure and order in the world.  Apparently people like me have a little problem with control.

Frequently I problem solve first and then start praying after nothing has worked and nothing has changed.  That leaves me feeling like I am asking God to do the impossible.  I mean, I already have tried to figure out a solution, and I couldn't.  Therefore, there can't possibly be a solution.  (Apparently I'm also a little stuck on myself and my ability to strategically approach situations.)

Right now my prayer list includes a lot of impossible requests.  And by impossible, I mean things that are completely out of my control.  No logical course of action can change anything, as far as I can see, and so I must completely depend on God to do what I can't do.

I pray for my son.  I want depression and anxiety to release him the chains they have wrapped around his mind.  I want him to experience God's presence and peace.  I want him to open his heart to God's love.  I want him to see that he's funny and smart and that people will like him if he gives them a chance.  I can't do that for him.  Counseling could not do that for him.  Only God can.

I pray for healing for friends with cancer and other still unidentified illnesses.  I can't heal them.  Doctors can only do so much.  God can do more.

I pray for marriages to thrive, for forgiveness and love to reign.  I can't fix my friends' lives.  Sometimes they can't fix their lives.  But God can.

I pray for spiritual healing for men and women whose hearts break for any number of reasons.  I know a lot of people.  There are a lot of people hurting.

I pray for the little church in Santee to grow.  Certainly there are things we can do. We can reach out to the community.  We can welcome people as they come in the door and invite them into our live, but we can't make people stay.  We can ask God to fill us with love for each other.  We can pray for each other.  But we can't transform lives or heal past hurts.  Only God causes church growth.  And by growth, I mean more than numbers.  I mean lives transformed by the power of God.

Sometimes, as I pray, I just think--all this is impossible.

Certainly some things are physically impossible.  For example, cancer doesn't just disappear.   Unless a miracle happens.

As for the other things I pray for, answers to these prayers don't go against the physical laws of nature.  On the other hand, they just don't happen very often.

And so I'm asking God to step in and do the impossible.  Sometimes I get tired of praying these prayers, because I don't always see God answering my prayers.  However, I do believe God answers prayers and so I keep praying.

Yesterday morning, I got very discouraged, and as I prayed, I thought of that verse where someone says, "Nothing is impossible for God."

I thought back through all my Bible stories and asked myself, "Who says that?"  And I turned to Luke 1, the story of Mary and the angel who announced she would get pregnant and give birth to a son, the son of God.

And Mary asks, "But how can that happen?  I'm a virgin and virgins don't get pregnant.  This is impossible?"

The angel responds in three ways.

First, he tells her how this will happen.  "Okay, the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of God will overshadow you so that your baby will be the Son of God."  I'm pretty sure this explanation made about as much sense to Mary as it does to any of us.

Next, the angel offers tangible evidence that God can do anything.  "Oh, and by the way if you think this sounds implausible, your cousin Elizabeth, the one everybody thought couldn't have kids, the one who's too old to have kids, she's pregnant."  So crazy, impossible things actually do happen.

And finally he ties it all together.  "Nothing is impossible with God."

God can do anything.  And when he does the impossible, the things we can't possibly do, he gets the credit.  He gets the glory.  We worship him and know he's not just a really cool guy.  He's GOD.

Think about it.  If Elizabeth had gotten pregnant when she was 25, no one would have said, "Wow! God is amazing."  No. Women get pregnant every day.  But when a woman beyond childbearing ages gets pregnant, especially one who has never had a baby, people praise God and know that God does the impossible.

Mary tells the angel, "Okay.  I'm God's servant.  I'll play whatever role God wants me to play."  I don't need to understand everything, but I'm on board.  God can do the impossible.  He can do it through me.

Now, I know there are some differences between this story and the story I'm telling about the impossible.  For instance, the angel approached Mary.  She didn't go to him and suggest that God do the impossible.  Quite honestly, this impossibility was so impossible that she wouldn't have even thought to ask God to do this.

This story presents a theological principle.  God can do anything.

Other passages instruct us to ask.
Luke 11:9 Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.
James 4:2  You don't have what you want because you don't ask for it.
Philippians 4:6  Tell God what you need, and thank him for he's already done.

More than that, we see examples of people asking God to intervene.  Abraham asks God to intervene and save lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The angels rescue Lot and his family.  Hannah begs God for a baby.  God gives her Samuel.  When Peter goes to prison, the church prays for his release.  And he gets released.

And so I'm praying.  I'm asking God for the impossible.

Oh, I'll keep asking God for wisdom in discerning the role I should play in people's lives.  And I'll keep asking him for wisdom in creating new strategies, new ways to proceed.  Creating strategies isn't a bad thing.

But mostly I want to see God's power.  I want to see him do the impossible.  I want to see him do the things I can't possibly do.

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