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                In 1982, the movie Rambo: First Blood came out. If you are not familiar with the movie (and it is ok if you are not), John Rambo was a former green beret who basically took on a whole town police department with just his survival knife. His survival knife was awesome. It had everything one would need to survive, hence its name. Like most boys who enjoyed being outside, I wanted one, badly. My level of excitement only went up when a local store started selling them.

                I immediately went into Operation-Got to Have One. Every possible chance I got, I asked. It became my mission to get one and I hounded my mom as much as I could. I played the, “My life is not complete without one” card. My loving mom simply told me that I would have to wait. My parents did not have the money at that particular time to get it for me. I would have to wait for the next payday. My little, kid mind could not comprehend this, so I kept on pestering her for it. My mother is a resolute woman and she stood her ground. She was not going to spend money, they did not have, for a knife that she knew I did not really need to survive. Eventually, she did buy the knife for me, but only when it was the right time for it. I spent the next two months with that knife strapped around my leg, as I pretended to be Rambo. Sadly, that knife would not have allowed me to take on a whole police force. It was only good for making my pants sag (and this was way before anyone wanted to walk around with sagging pants.)

                I know that for a lot of us, our prayer life feels like this. There is something we really want (sometimes it really is important or necessary, and sometimes it will only make us feel better), so we start asking God. We may start off very ‘churchy” in our prayer requests. We use church words and ask very solemnly. We do not get the answer we want, as soon as we want it, so we move into begging. We may or may not get our requests, but we still feel like there is something missing in the way God answers our prayers. A good question to ask then is, “How does God answer prayers?”

                Several months ago, I was listening to James Merritt, the pastor at Cross Pointe Church in Georgia. He was preaching on God answering prayers. Dr. Merritt is famous for his alliterations, and this sermon was no different. He said that we get: 1. A Direct Answer, 2. A Delayed Answer, 3. A Different Answer, and 4. A Denied Answer.

                 Jennifer and I were listening to that particular sermon after meeting with the search committee of Shallow Well. We knew that we loved Sanford, and that we really liked the people that we were meeting with, but we wanted to make sure that we were doing what God wanted us to do. We started praying about whether or not we should come here. We wanted to hear God’s voice and be obedient.

                We prayed and then waited for His response. I am glad to say that we got a direct answer. He made it clear that this is the church He wanted us to come and serve at. It was not an audible voice, but it was clear enough for both of us.

                We had spent the many months before this, talking to other churches. I really wanted to get back into full-time ministry, and I knew God wanted that from us as well. When we started praying about this, we got a delayed answer. God did not tell us where He was sending us, or when He was sending us. It would be more than a year after we started the process of looking for a position that He put us in one. All we knew was, he was sending us out. We had to wait for his answer for the remaining details.

 I was looking for a senior pastor position. In fact, 99% of the churches I sent my resume to were senior pastor positions. That position was not what God wanted for me. When the time was right (when Shallow Well came calling) I got a different answer than the one I thought I would get. He wanted me to be an associate pastor. During this time, we met with some unique churches. It was clear that for some of those churches the answer was no. This was a denied answer. I cannot tell you how happy we are that God said “no” to us about those churches.

                God does not always answer our prayer requests the way that we want Him to. Sometimes it really is just a “yes’ or “no” answer. I may not like the “no”, but I appreciate knowing. The harder answers, are the delayed answers. God’s time is not our time. His time is better than our time, so we need to learn to be patient. I am also thankful for the different answers He gives us. I am glad that He knows the big picture and He wants the very best for us. Many times, we do not see the very best, we just see what we want.

                As Christians, we know that we should pray. Hopefully we even know how to pray. The hardest part is the answer to our requests. Ultimately, we just must trust God and trust His timing. He loves us more than we could ever imagine. He only wants the best for us. 

Marty

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