“Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 (CSB)
A group of teenagers and I sat cross-legged on the church lawn, soaking in the warm sunshine. We’d just taken a break from a group game to sip something cold while we visited with each other. One of the girls had just returned from a mission trip in a developing nation, and I couldn't wait to hear about her experience.
“So, Renee, tell us about your trip,” I inquired. “What is the one thing you will remember the most?”
I imagined her answer having to do with a child who captured her heart with a sweet smile, or a church service she attended that was so very different from ours. Neither one of these guesses was right.
“Oh, that’s easy. I will always remember it was on this trip when I learned how easy it is in our culture to answer our own prayers.”
Her statement stunned me for a moment. I wondered, What in the world did she mean, by “answer our own prayers” …? Only God answers prayer, right? But before I could ask her to explain further, she continued.
“You see, here when we pray, we bow our heads, say grace and ask God to ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ And then? We hop in our cars, run to the grocery store and buy a loaf or two. We ask Him to keep us safe and warm. Then parents buy their kids the best car seats available, and we crank up the furnace whenever we feel chilly. It is so easy in our culture to provide the answer to our own prayers. But the people I met on the trip? They pray God will give them their daily bread, not knowing if they will have enough food to feed their families that night. Their prayers are bold. They ask God for things they can't always provide for themselves.”
I had never thought of this concept before, and it stirred my heart and mind: How can I use my abundance to help answer someone else's prayers? To leverage the privilege I have been given to help and encourage others?
Today’s key verse from Philippians 2:4 gives me a perfect perspective in this endeavor: “Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (CSB) I should not just be “answering my own prayers.” I should also seek to use what resources and time I have to be the answer to someone’s else’s prayers.
All over the world, there are hungry and hurting souls who need food, shelter and even safety. Perhaps they need emotional support or spiritual encouragement. They might simply need a listening ear and assurance that God loves them, and He has not forgotten them. Maybe they could use some help in their own spiritual growth. Do we think of such people when we pray and act, or do we only consider our own needs in these areas?
Hopefully, the more we grow in our walk with the Lord, the more attentive we become to the interests of others, not just our own. My little chat with this spiritually sensitive teen changed me. I began to pray God would help me be attentive to those needing my help. And then, that I would stand back and — in faith — watch Him work.
How about you? Is your prayer list full of items pertaining to your own needs but rarely the needs of others? Perhaps it is time we begin asking God to use us as the answer to someone else’s prayers.
Father, teach me to be generous in giving my time, my talents and my resources. Please use me as You answer the prayers of others in need. Help me to be willing and available to follow You however You lead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Proverbs 3:27, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” (ESV)
Hebrews 6:10, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (NIV)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
Have you ever thought of the concept of “answering your own prayers” instead of trusting God in bigger ways? How might knowing there are others who need our participation as God answers their prayers encourage you to seek out such people and help?
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© 2019 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.