Saturday, January 24, 2009

A free gift

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

...the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Romans 8:20 and 26

My Economics professor used to say that nothing's free. Mentally, I thought I could come up with some kind of argument against that statement, then I realized how much it applies to material things. Recently, I began to reflect on how that statement also applies to the intangible. Why am I thinking about this now, even though I've been out of college for a few years? Whenever I hear the term 'free gift', I think about what my professor said about 5 or 6 years ago. (Has it been that long, man, how time flies! I'm getting old. Yes, it's been 6 years; I was 18 when I took that class*.)

How many times do we offer a 'gift' to someone and expect them to give us something in return? I know we feel guilty about it later, especially when we're trying to do it with a selfless spirit, but sometimes, it happens. We're nice to someone we've just met and hope they'll reciprocate. Who knows, a friendship could develop as a result of our kind behavior toward that person, we think to ourselves. It sounds so innocent, but in that moment we have expectations. Of course, we acknowledge the importance of being nice to folks just because it's the 'right thing to do', but sometimes it's pretty tough to not have expectations.

Is it any surprise that we also view God this way? We're told to pray, and we think "Okay, God, look at me, I'm praying...Look! See!!!" It's like we think he's Santa Claus, staring at us from a far away heaven; we're the little porcelain figurines in a snow globe entertaining him.

And because we're honoring his wishes, or so it seems, we suddenly expect him to answer our prayers in our time! "God, why are you taking so long, I've been praying for years..." or "God, you must not exist because I've been praying and I'm not seeing anything come from those prayers! What a waste of time".

Whether we think those exact thoughts or something similar, we fail to realize the following:
  • The spirit that we have while we're praying determines what will come of that prayer.
  • We don't realize that prayer is more for us than him; God's perfect already, and I doubt heaven's boring, so he doesn't need us to entertain him.

I'm sure you've heard it said that we grow closer to God when we pray, but how? It's obvious that we lose touch with people when we stop talking to them, so that'll be the simple example of how. But, also, how can you see God change your life if you're not asking him to show you? Even if you don't believe in God, is it really that ridiculous to ask him a simple question every once in awhile? Things don't happen coincidentally, really.

Think of all the 'coincidences' you've experienced in the past week...
1) You woke up late for work and you're in a bad mood, then you get stuck in traffic because there's an accident up ahead; if you left just 5 minutes earlier, you would've been in that accident.
2) You turn on the radio randomly and suddenly someone's talking about their latest concern. It sounds a whole lot like yours, except they're focusing on the solution to the problem--what you couldn't arrive at on your own.
3) You're randomly browsing the internet and come across a page that talks about the symptoms you've been blowing off for weeks; suddenly, you realize how dumb it was for you to ignore them for so long. You get an ugly diagnosis but it would've been a whole lot uglier if you'd waited one more week to see the doctor.
4) Insert your coincidence here.

I'm sure most of us don't give credit to God for these coincidences, or happy accidents. What we fail to realize is this: had we been praying beforehand (even if it's about something minor), we would've seen how he spared us; how he took something negative and turned it into something positive. I know you've heard that one before.

In those 'duh it's God' moments, I grow closer to him. Afterward, I am also convinced that I need to take advantage of the free gift of prayer more often because God knows (literally) how much I need it.

*Let it be known that I did horribly in that class and didn't enjoy it at all! This is probably the only thing I took away from it :D (and the only thing I really remember my professor saying).


tallmisto said...

Hmm, so interesting that you post on this - now. Not just what happened/happens when I'm not praying, but all the things the Spirit has tried to tell me and I just wasn't listening. How the Spirit has tried to intercede and in my selfishness I thought I knew better.

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