“Would you like a pony?” The business suited man looks awkward with knees pointed towards the ceiling as he sits across the child-sized table from two young girls.
With excitement a piggy-tailed youngster exclaims, “Oh yes!”
Like magic, he unveils a sweet plastic-brown pony. In joy the girl takes the new toy and begins to play.
The toy-less girl looks on with quiet envy. The man turns his attention towards her, “And would YOU like a pony?” Anxious with anticipation, she nods yes.
And just like that appears a real—live—pony. He hands her the reigns. She nuzzles into its soft fur.
Pouting and confused, the piggy-tailed girl with her plastic imitation stresses, “That’s not fair! You didn’t say I could have a REAL pony.”
Disregarding, the man sneers, “Well, you didn’t ask for one.”
Recognize the commercial? Such a witty campaign. It got me thinking about a book I read last week.
Lately, life has been less than perfect and I’ve been grabbing at straws for something, anything, to help make life a bit more balanced on the side of “fair”.
I was at a conference and walked up to the book table to find the talisman I sought—a wildly popular book about prayer. It suggests if I just pray this very certain prayer, my blessings are likened to the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. This was GREAT, because I needed a pot of gold something fierce!
Feeling the end of my rope was near, I read the book in record time. I paused in reflection and began to say the instructed prayer with a salt-streaked face.
I thought, “Mark this day, it will be the beginning of my blessings and favor.” I was certain I now held the key to abundance.
Wait. Just. One. Minute.
“I” held the key? I vaguely recalled Jesus mentioning keys to the Kingdom (Matt 16:19), but with this book I got the impression that I held the keys to God’s storehouse. Dare I say, my understanding was that if I subscribed to praying this very prayer each day (for 30 days) I could will the hand of God.
Yes that’s what I said, “will the hand of God.” Even articulating these words sends foreboding chills through my spine and twists my stomach to the irreverent borderlines.
Sitting numb after “the prayer”, I pondered. What was this book telling me? What was the truth I needed to take away? Why was my heart troubled with the message?
While the best-seller details line-by-line a beautiful prayer (not the Lord’s Prayer), I hardened up. I refused to be coerced into thinking that every prior prayer I prayed in joy and tearful petition was less than heard because I didn’t follow a formula in the book. Even worse, it suggested I didn’t pray God’s favorite prayer.
I began to feel like the girl with the plastic pony. It was wrong. My heart rebuffed the notion that God would hold out on me because my prayers weren’t according to the book. In angst I murmured to God, “And what about the Holy Spirit interceding for me when I can no longer utter the words? (Romans 8:26-27). Aren’t THOSE the very best prayers…Holy Spirit delivered?”
From God I heard silence. For now, this was mine to wrestle.
God must have blessed this book, it’s sold millions. TENS of MILLIONS. I knew there must be a nugget of truth buried in the book. I was going to find it.
For now—after my internal debate and struggle—I determined the following on prayer and the book’s message:
- The point of prayer is relationship. Making one with God, and keeping it open. Just like talking to a friend, the more you communicate—the closer you get. So start talking.
- There is no formula. I’ve talked about this before—and I’ll say it again. You can subscribe to the prayer of this book, the A.C.T. method, the Lord’s Prayer, the A.B.C. acronym, etc… They are all just methods. The point is – point # 1 (go re-read it if you’ve already forgotten it).
- Prayer is about dependence. The actual definition of prayer is to entreat, implore, question, request, or plea. When you pray, you make it clear to God that you’ve got big fat ZERO without His blessings. You depend on Him, thus you pray (beg) for blessing. And just like Mom said, don’t forget to say please and thank you.
- Strip down the prayer of THIS book, and what you’re really saying is, “God let me do more for You. And while I’m doing ‘Kingdom’* work, please keep me safe from evil and temptations. Because if You open doors for me to do this work, evil forces are sure to do everything they can to trip me up.”
*Kingdom work – sorry, that’s a big Christianese buzz word right now. In short, my version means you are workin’ the Love, Salt and Light (more Chistianese). Simply put, you are mirroring Jesus, loving others in big outrageous ways. That’s Kingdom work.
While I was disappointed I hadn’t found the prayer for a winning lottery ticket, I did discover the truth behind the tucked away 1 Chronicles 4:10 prayer. These little nuggets of truth excited me. I could pray something that would make God über thrilled. Much like praying “show me what it means to love” or “break my heart for what breaks Yours”—these are prayers God is all too eager to answer. With speed. So be careful.
So, will I say the prayer? The dangerous prayer? I have; several days in a row—and I continue. I think about the risk I am taking, nearly daring God…
Yet sadly, like the vast amount of people who’ve bought this book— I STILL struggle with the hope that I’ve found a talisman, the lucky rabbit’s foot to end all my pain and fill my life with ease. Truthfully, I’m a deeply fallen human. I DO want the pretty real-live pony, and don’t want to think I missed out with a plastic toy in my hands. I want it all and I want it easy.
Easy Kingdom work. Now there’s an oxymoron