I recall when I was young and trying to find my way. I would end each day staring into the emptiness of a purposeless life. It was haunting and so very vague. I grew up in a Christian home… well, a home of Christian tradition. What I found as I grew older was a not so fulfilling religion. It was hollow and filled with behaviors of goodness, but lacked genuine life change. I must admit it left me jaded. Like so many wanderers looking for answers, mine were not answered through Sunday school, church going or Hell Fire Preaching. I wanted a foundation.
It was my Senior year in High School. We were entering the final days of the school year. After blowing my knee out playing Basketball, I finally gave my leg the attention it needed with surgery and rest. Unfortunately, in the process, I became addicted to prescription pain killers and was popping pills like they were candy. It was May 6thand the last thing I remember was taking some pain killers at the water fountain outside my AP Humanities Class. The next moment I recall, was seeing stars as people surrounded me with tears and panic.
My thoughts were many. “What’s happening?” “Why am I laying in a field by the side of the road?” “Why are these faces looking at me with so much concern?” Then everything goes black… I awoke in the back of an ambulance. The ride was jarring. It almost felt as if I were broken in pieces. I could feel every bump and every turn. It was painful. And why couldn’t I breathe? It was such a struggle to breathe. I felt panic coming again and as it did the lights began to fade into blackness once more.
The next time I wake up, I am on a very cold table. The lights are so bright. “What is happening?”I hear a fury of voices, but my body is numb. I must be in the hospital. Some hours later, I was ina darker room surrounded by machines and beeping. The pain was overwhelming. I just wanted to die. But, in that moment I remembered the game I had been playing with my life. Remembering my church upbringing, the thought of hell literally scared me more than dying. So, while in a fog of pain meds; I asked God to forgive me of the fence riding I had been doing. I came clean and admitted I didn’t know what I was doing and or what life was about, but I wanted God to just forgive me and let me die. Strange, in a moment like that some would say, “if you’re praying to God, why not ask Him to heal you?” I recognized I didn’t deserve grace. I realized I was a punk kid who lived for the moment and himself forgetting about the consequences. Well, that is… until it counted. And I was more concerned with facing a judging God, than I was concerned about asking for healing.
However, what I found was a merciful God. Several days later I woke up and with very different perspective. I was told I shouldn’t have made it through the first night due to extensive internal injuries I received in a very serious car accident. Apparently, I was sent flying from my car through the rear hatch and some 40 feet in the air into a telephone pole. The doctors told me it was miracle I was alive.
I now had a different perspective… “I am here for a purpose, let’s find out why!” In a dark hospital room with me wanting to die, God reached down to where I was and provided an answer for my request. LIFE and even PURPOSE! We live aimless lives trapped from awareness because we don’t seek the God who made it all. It was clear to me right there when it counted I would meet my creator. I didn’t want to meet Him having wasted this short life on myself. He created us with purpose and for His joy. I came to find as I hope you do, I could not find my purpose apart from the one who created me. My purpose and your purpose are always tied to the One Who made all things. Don’t get detoured in life because of ignorance. I did, but by His grace I woke up.
Colossians 1:16 For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.
Acts 17:28 For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'
In the Exodus story of the Hebrew people exiting Egypt and leaving a life of slavery, time and time again they allowed fear to cause them to forget God’s involvement with them. When they came to a roadblock in their journey, they forgot how God had demonstrated His power and glory in setting them free. How God had led them Himself through the desert by a column of smoke by day and a column of fire by night. How God had parted the Red Sea, so they could escape their captors on dry land. They forgot how God provided life-giving water when the only water they found in the desert was stagnate. They forgot how God came through repeatedly. I think a lot it has to do with how they prayed.
In Exodus chapter 33, there is this moment of prayer. Moses starts his prayer in verse 12 with a thankfulness of what God has done for the Hebrew people and himself. He then asks God to show Moses His ways. God responds to Moses by simply saying, “My presence shall go with you and I will give you rest”(Exodus 33:14).
I think a lot of us can relate with this. We pray to God for a specific answer and God answers us like He answers Moses in Exodus 33:14. It’s not the answer Moses wants.
So, Moses makes another request in verse 15 and 16. “If Your presence does not go [with me], do not lead us up from here. 16 For how then can it be known that Your people and I have found favor in Your sight? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we are distinguished, Your people and I, from all the [other] people on the face of the earth?”
And God responds again to Moses with an answer in verse 17 Moses doesn’t want and maybe doesn’t understand. God’s response is, “I will also do this thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you personally by name.”
Moses, like us, is asking for something from God. God responds with something entirely different. I think it is important we understand when we pray to God, we pray from our perspective. We are looking for answers or something from God through our eyes. But what God has in mind is so much bigger, in fact, what He desires is holy, righteous and ultimately for our good.
In that second request, Moses wants confirmation from God, he and the people have found favor in God’s eyes. It boils down to being a security thing. We do that with God too! We try to pull the “If, then” thing with God. Moses tried it and now he decides He is going to change the direction of his prayer to God. In verse 18, Moses now asks God, “Please show me Your glory!”God grants this request and things change. God allows Moses to see His goodness and proclaims the Name of the Lord before Him. However, He protects Moses by not allowing him to see His face because no one can see the face of God and live.
In the next chapter, we see how things change and turnaround. In Exodus 34, starting at verse 6, an exchange takes place between God and Moses. But this time, God speaks first.
God reveals His goodness and declares the following in verses 6 and 7: “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 keeping mercy and lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; but He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, avenging the iniquity (sin, guilt) of the fathers….”
Moses responds with humility in verse 8 and 9. “Moses bowed to the earth immediately and worshiped [the Lord]. 9 And he said, “If now I have found favor and lovingkindness in Your sight, O Lord, let the Lord, please, go in our midst, though it is a stiff-necked (stubborn, rebellious) people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your possession.”
The difference this time and the important thing for us to gather from this exchange is now Moses’ prayer is shaped by what God has said. The object of Moses’ prayer changed from being an answer, a specific want or specific need; to being focused on God Himself. It is important we understand our prayers should be shaped around God Himself and or what God has said. It will change your life! Try praying for God in your life, not stuff and things and see how your life will change for the good.
Paul is a Christ Follower. He has been married to his beautiful wife Rebecca for twenty-four years. They have two beautiful children, a dog, two cats and a turtle. They love being together as a family and doing the adventure that is ministry. They love the outdoors and enjoying God's creation.