I once went for an interview in London and I was having a lot of trouble finding a parking space. I finally found one in a multi-storey car park and then ran to the place where the interview was being held. I arrived just in time, but after the interview I left the building and stood on the pavement and that was when I realised I didn’t have a clue where I had left my car! I had been in such a rush to get to where I was going that had forgotten to make a note of where I was going from! I found my car about an hour later, but only after I had been all the way through the three carparks which were nearby!
It reminds me of a story of another man who was going for an interview for the most amazing job in his field. It was a job which would double his current salary, would give him a great future and a wonderful pension. It was everything he had ever wanted! He had the same problem as I had, though. He kept driving round the carpark, but couldn’t find a space. He was beginning to panic because he was running out of time. He knew that if he was late for the interview he would not get the job.
He started praying, “Please, Lord, help me! Please find me a parking space. If you do, I shall give 10% of everything to the church, I shall read my Bible every day, I will spend time helping people in every way I can – giving them lifts, money, working in their gardens, decorating – whatever is needed! Please, please find me a parking space.”
Just at that moment a car pulled out of a space just in front of him. He shouted, “It’s OK, Lord, you don’t have to bother – there’s a space here!”
I’m a bit like that, you know. I pray when I need help, but when everything is going OK I don’t bother. My problem is that until recently I really haven’t had any problems, so I seldom pray for myself. I pray every day for my family, and sometimes for my friends, but I certainly don’t pray enough and, when everything is going well, I hardly give prayer a second thought. I think a lot of people are like that. I also think that a lot of people who don’t even believe in God find themselves in a terrible situation – maybe their lives are in danger – and suddenly start praying for the first time since they were born!
But prayer isn’t just an emergency thing. It’s not just for those last-gasp moments in our lives. It’s how we speak to God, and sometimes it’s how we hear from him.
We were all told as kids to “ask nicely” but it’s not just the nicely bit. The simple fact of the matter is that if you don’t ask, you won’t get.
Jesus tells us to pray and to pray a lot. He said,
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-9)
It’s not about just asking once and giving up just because our prayers aren’t answered immediately – it’s about praying a lot – again and again. Neither is it about stopping praying just because our prayer has been answered (like the man in the car park.)
Never stop praying. (1 Thessalonians 5 :17)
But it’s not just the asking that does it!
But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. (James 1:6)
This was the problem the man in the carpark had. He didn’t just believe in God – he also believed in luck. When the space appeared in front of him, he didn’t understand that God had answered his prayer – he thought he had just been lucky and effectively stopped praying!
Sometimes life goes well for us. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we are very healthy, and sometimes we are very unwell. Sometimes we are happy, and sometimes life just gets too much for us. Prayer is for all those times! God isn’t God just on the good days, any more than he is God just on the bad days. In Hebrews 13:8 we are told,
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
He is always the same. Today, tomorrow, good times, bad times – that is when he wants us to speak to him, to pray to him, to keep praying to him. The right time to pray is now, and the best way to pray is constantly. Constantly believing that God will answer our prayers!