One wintry day I decided to bake a custard pie. It turned out to be delectable, made of creamy milk and butter, farm-fresh eggs, topped with a browned, nutmeggy skim of butter dots. It took quite a bit of time to prepare but the family loved it. It was so much better than the instant pudding I sometimes make.
What made the difference? I checked the list of ingredients on a box of instant pudding. Except for the two cups of milk I was to supply, there was little nourishment in that little package. Its popularity stems from the fact that you get instant results. No waiting for an hour while the pie bakes.
We are so accustomed to instant results that we sometimes want instant answers when we pray. Not concerned too much with the quality, we focus on the action! We want the beauty without the heating, the flavor without the slow fire.
An evangelist told how he was on his knees praying for money to continue traveling, When he opened his eyes, he saw someone had slipped an envelope under his door. It contained a $50 bill!
A man in the audience went home and tried the same thing. He knelt on his knees and prayed, but kept one eye on the crack under the door. Nothing happened, except he was overcome with a feeling of defeat.
What are we to think? is prayer only a casual request like asking someone to pass the salt? Or is prayer more like ask, see, and knock? In other words, use your mouth, use your eyes, your hands and feet, use everything, be a pest, but don't give up.
"Prayer," as Richard Trench has said, "is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His highest willingness." Byron Edwards put it this way, "God's delays are not always God's denials. True prayer always receives what it asks for—or something better."
What we call "slow" answers are sometimes blessings. The second question of Paul's converted life was, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" God did not answer that prayer instantly. He did not show Paul the jail houses, solitary confinement and public beatings he would soon endure. If God had shown Paul these things, perhaps Paul would have taken the road back to Jerusalem or contented himself with being a secret believer.
Of course, we are all familiar with "ordinary" prayers. One day I had to recopy two long manuscripts written several years ago. I couldn't even find the carbons. My files had been well organized, but my young son had rummaged through them, hunting for stories to read. Now nothing was in order.
I pulled out the long file drawer and stared at the mess. I knew finding the manuscript would take me at least two hours. I quickly prayed, "Lord, help me find them quickly." I randomly began looking for the manuscripts. The second manuscript I touched was one of the ones I needed.
It took about half an hour to retype it. Then I had to look for the second manuscript. I prayed, "Lord, I don't feel I should ask You again but...." The first manuscript I touched was the one I needed. How did I feel? I'm afraid to tell you. At first, I was elated. Then negative thoughts crept in. "That must have been a coincidence. God is really too busy to take time for such silly things. Lots of other people who aren't Christians have experiences like this." And ,o
But in the back of my mind, I believe God answered my prayers instantly. He saved me several precious hours at the end of a busy day. However, there wasn't much nourishment in it. I had the taste of instant pudding, that was all.
But note, we should be grateful for that instant pudding. We just need to make sure to adjust our appetites in preparation for something better. There is spiritual nourishment in slow, baked-to-perfection answers.