Pray. And Go.

This blog was originally posted in November 2014 on Inspire a Fire, a blog site for inspirational Christian messages. Visit the original post at www.inspireafire.com/pray-go/.

Sometimes we are the answer to our own prayers.

There is a scene in the third installment of the Harry Potter series that I love. Harry and his friends are attacked by foul creatures known as dementors and are losing the fight. Suddenly, in the hazy distance, Harry sees a figure that looks like his father raise a wand and scatter the dementors. Saved – but how is that possible? Harry’s father is dead.

Fast forward a few chapters, and in that intrepid J.K. Rowling fashion, Harry and his friends have travelled back in time and are watching these same events unfold. They are standing just a few feet from where their rescuer appeared. Even as Harry watches their earlier selves succumb to the fight, he is watching and waiting for their rescuer to appear. Harry knows it will happen because it has already happened. But where is he?

Photo courtesy www.freedigitalphotos.net & Salvatore Vuono

Photo courtesy http://www.freedigitalphotos.net & Salvatore Vuono

Then suddenly Harry realizes: it was him that rescued their earlier selves! It was him he saw from a distance and mistook for his father. And leaping to his feet, he draws his wand and shoots the powerful rays that scatter the dementors. All along he had been waiting, but it was him that had to do it.

Yes, sometimes we are the answer to our own prayers.

I don’t think this principal is accidental. In fact, we see it modelled in Jesus’ work with His disciples. Jesus told his followers to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few,” He said (Matthew 9:37). Jesus saw the rampant needs of the people He encountered. He knew additional help was needed to share the message of salvation and bring physical healing to the sick.

But Jesus did not stop with merely instructing his listeners to pray. Both times when this quote appears in the Gospels, it is followed by incredible action. In Matthew 9-10, Jesus instructed His disciples to pray, and then He sent them out to be the very workers they were praying for. In Luke 10, Jesus similarly instructed His listeners to pray, and then He sent out the seventy-two. “Go!” He declared. “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons…” (Matthew 10:7)

Jesus told His listeners what to pray for, and then He answered their prayer by sending… them!

Field at Sunset

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. (Photo by Janet Beagle)

Be careful what you ask for, I have heard. Because you just might get it. Be careful what you pray for, I might add. Because you just might become it.

God already knows who He wants us to become. He knows what task he has for us to do. Like the twelve disciples and the seventy-two, God wants to send us into the harvest field. God is looking for us to cry out like Isaiah: Here I am, Lord. Send me. Send me! This cry may look different for each one of us. Some may be called to far-away mission fields. Some may be called to a backyard harvest. Either way, the process is the same. The first step is to pray. Then we must go.

Like Harry looking back on his earlier self, we can rest in the assurance that our Savior will come to save us, because He already has. Our God has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die upon a cross and thus pay in full the debt of our sin. But also like Harry, this assurance does not prevent us from doing the task that is at hand. In addition to assuring us of our salvation, our God has also given us a job to do. As Jesus’ followers, we too are called to pray for more workers in the harvest. And then we, too, are called to go.

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Cooking Tip #2: When all else fails…

This is a tip that I learned early in my cooking career.  (Since things failed frequently, I had a lot of practice.)  The tip is a single word that completely revolutionized my cooking habits.  And if it could transform my cooking, it can most certainly do the same for you.  Are you ready?  The word is: cheese.

Yes, cheese.  This miraculous ingredient has rescued more inedible dishes than any other substance known to man.  It does not matter whether it is meat or vegetables or that amorphous substance known as “casserole.”  When all else fails, smother it in cheese.

There is no such thing as bad cheese.  In a pinch, even fake cheese will do. (Cheese in a can, anyone?)  But when I am faced with a cheese-worthy crisis, there are two key principles I abide by.  First, the stronger the cheese, the better.  There is nothing like an extra strength aged cheddar or a roquefort bleu cheese to deaden the senses to anything else contained within the dish.  These are two ingredients no hapless cook should ever be without.  Depending on your particular flair, there are also specialty cheeses that may be summoned for a specific cause.  Think smoked gouda for that pot of scalded potatoes, or limburger for anything that comes out smelling like feet.  (Wait, you’ve never had anything come out smelling like feet??  Well then, never mind that one.  Let’s move on.)

Second, there is no such thing as too much cheese.  The more severe the crisis, the more cheese may be required.  Unless you are lactose intolerant, you can pile on the cheese knowing that a) you are increasing your households level of calcium, which happens to be a very important nutrient and b) you are supporting America’s dairy farmers, some of whom happen to be my friends and many of whom are becoming my friends as my cheese purchases pay off their mortgages.

Ahh, cheese.  You are indeed the miracle ingredient within my kitchen.  When all else fails, cheese can come to the rescue.  But – it pains me to say it – even cheese has its limits.  Smothering my homework in cheese, for example, is not going to help.  Coating that business deal in cheese… not recommended.  Mending a broken heart, struggling with doubt or fear, reaching out to a friend: For that, God has given us a different ingredient.  One, believe it or not, that is even more powerful than cheese.  This is also one word that can transform our lives forever: prayer.

When all else fails in cooking, cheese is splendid.  When all else fails in life, prayer is our lifeline.  Just like with cheese, the stronger the prayer the better.  And just like with cheese, there is no such thing as too much prayer.  But there is one more important analogy – perhaps the most important one of all, and it is this:  Cheese isn’t just for emergency, and neither is prayer. 

The Bible tells us to Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16).  And, In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).  As Christians, we are called to smother not just the bad times, but the good times, too, in prayer.  Prayer is our conversation with our heavenly Father.  We are called to pray alone, and together, and for each other.  Prayer is sharing our joy in the good times and our struggles in the bad time.  Prayer is requesting God’s good will to guide us and to guide those we love.  Prayer is the single most powerful ingredient we have.  Indeed, cheese may have its limits, but there is nothing outside the scope of prayer.  There is nothing too good or too bad or too scary or too embarrassing or too overwhelming that we cannot take it to our Father in prayer. Prayer is an ingredient we always have on hand, and we should use it everyday, all throughout the day, to stay connected to Him.

So there you have it.  Prayer and cheese.  Two ingredients that have revolutionized my cooking and my life.  And now I must go.  Because while I would much rather sit here and type, my smoke detector is telling me that my casserole is ready for the cheese.  Rest assured, I will be praying along the way.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).