As I’m writing this, the temps outside are in the 30s, and there are still traces of “white stuff” in the yard from the unexpected snow that fell over the weekend. Our weather here in the Midwest goes up and down like a yo-yo. Last week we had record high temps that soared into the high 80s. It seems kind of weird, but I was planting tulip bulbs less than seven days ago while wearing shorts! This is Missouri, though, and as the saying goes, “If you don’t like the weather here, just wait a couple of hours, and it will change.”
This year I planted a new shade of tulips called “blushing Apeldoorn.” They’re hybrid tulips known for their extra large blooms and bold color. I hope they’ll look great alongside the pink, yellow, and red ones I planted several years ago.
The soil needs to cool off from the summer growing season before you can plant tulips which means November is a good time to plant them here in Missouri. Once the new bulbs are in the ground, they’ll anchor themselves by growing strong, deep roots, which will help them get nutrients and water from the soil.
As the months go by, they’re sort of half sleeping and half awake. They’re not growing in size, but they still have a strong root system. The soil I’ve put on top of the bulbs protects them from frost damage, while the cold, damp soil they’re nestled in brings on a chemical change that prepares them for the growing season several months ahead.
Sometimes as I’m digging, I’ll try and picture what the flowers will look like in five or six months. Will they be a peachy color or a vibrant orange? Will they be cotton candy pink or bright fuschia? Fall bulb planting requires a lot of “gardening faith.” Even though I can’t see them yet, I’ll keep planting and believing that, come springtime, the landscape will be full of beautiful blooms.
Planting bulbs and waiting for them to bloom reminds me of praying prayers and waiting for answers. I don’t always know what my tulips will look like come springtime, but I know they’ll be beautiful. It’s the same with my prayers. I don’t always know how God will answer, but whatever He does, it will be beautiful and for the best.
Years ago, I read a book about prayer. The book is about a “secret” the author’s mother told him when he was young. The secret was to imagine setting out two chairs in the morning and spending time with God before you begin your day; you sitting in one and God in the other. It’s about how limited you and I are without God and how we should make it a priority to meet with Him each morning just as if we were meeting with a close friend. The book is one of my favorites; I highly recommend it.
My early morning quiet time has always been important to me. Before the hustle and bustle of the day begins, I make it a point to meet with God.
I used to lie in bed at night and fret about things (responsibilities, to-do lists, finances, my kids, annoyances, etc.). Instead of twisting and turning all night long, I’ve learned to say something like: “God, I’ve got things I want to talk about with You. I know you can help me. I’ll see you in the morning.” Then I’m able to drift off to sleep worry-free.
I’m one of those people who loves the wee hours of the morning. I love the quiet of the house when it’s just me, the dogs, and God. Here’s a snippet of what my mornings look like: I wake up (with a major bedhead), shuffle into the bathroom to brush my teeth, make my way to the kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee, and then, while still in my PJs and robe, head off to meet with Him. He’s faithful-He’s never a no-show. He’s always “sitting” in a chair, waiting for me to join Him so I can share what’s on my mind.
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning, I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
Psalm 5:3 (NIV)
Spending time with my friends is easy. We laugh over silly things, have serious conversations, share secrets, and periodically ask each other for guidance. All are things that make up a relationship between good friends.
God wants to be my friend too. He knows everything about me. He knows me inside and out. My worries, my pain, my shame, my fears. What makes me laugh? What makes me sad? I can hide nothing from him.
He’s not stymied, stumped, surprised, frustrated, or disappointed by anything I have to say to Him.
The Great Exchange
Life is not easy. It’s hard being a human. It’s hard to watch death and disease. It’s hard to watch friendships fizzle. It’s hard to navigate rejection and criticism. It’s hard to know how to handle money. It’s hard to watch injustice. It’s hard to fail. It’s hard to love people. Life is hard.
I’m limited in what I can do, but God is limitless in what He can do.
He wants to give me peace, knowledge, clarity, joy, forgiveness, and whatever else I need. As I pour out my thoughts and prayers to Him, a great exchange happens:
His strength becomes my strength. His peace becomes my peace. His courage becomes my courage. His insight becomes my insight. His joy becomes my joy. His love becomes my love.
I have tunnel vision about my concerns. It’s hard for me to see the big picture. Not God. He sees it all from the beginning to the end. Nothing is too big for Him to handle.
Garth Brooks had it right when he sang his song about unanswered prayers and “just because He may not answer doesn’t mean He don’t care.” 🎵 Not all my prayers are (or will be) answered the way I want them to be. I prayed “big” prayers about my Mom’s health, but she still died. I prayed about my Dad’s Alzheimer’s, but it still progressed. I prayed about problems in my business, and they were never resolved. I prayed for a resolution to a fractured friendship, which was never repaired. I prayed for a friend’s cancer, and it never went into remission.
Is it because my prayers were too weak? Did I not pray the right words? Did I lack faith? No, no, and no. Not all prayer is answered the way we want them to be. The power of prayer is a mystery. We can’t explain it.
So why should we pray at all? Easy. Prayer isn’t about results. It’s about relationships. God wants us to interact with him (to pull up a chair and talk to Him). He wants us to “wrestle” with him, hammer things out, and trust Him.
I love how Max Lucado puts it: “Don’t ask God to do what you want. Ask God to do what is right.”
Prayers That Outlive Me
Not only do tulips return year after year, but they multiply, form clumps that grow bigger, and they spread. This means I may never live to see some of the tulips that will bloom in my landscaping one day.
The same can be said about my prayers. I may never see the prayers I’m praying now come to fruition. Many of them will outlive me. That’s OK. I’ll still lift them up because they mean a lot to me (so, of course, they mean a lot to God). I’ll pray now and expect great results later.
I’m praying now that my sons will remain close throughout their lifetime. I’m expecting great results later.
I’m praying now that my future daughters-in-law will become and remain the best of friends. I’m expecting great results later.
I’m praying now that my grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and all of my future generations will be brought up to know and follow God. I’m expecting great results later.
I’m praying for a lot of things now and expecting great results later.
God’s plans are always for the best. His timing is perfect. He doesn’t keep a clock. He doesn’t need one.
I copied this quote recently and taped it to my refrigerator as a reminder:
“Prayer is something we do in our timing; answers come in God’s timing.” Bob Beaudine
Being OK with God’s timing isn’t always easy for me. I usually want my prayers answered immediately. God understands, and He’s OK with my impatience.
Do you know what’s been an antidote for my eagerness? Opening the Bible and getting to know God better. When I do, I learn about what makes God God. I learn that:
- He’s infinite. (Col. 1:17)
- He never changes. (Malachi 3:6)
- He has no needs. (John 5:26)
- He’s all-powerful. (Job 11:7-11)
- He’s all-knowing. (Isaiah 46:9-10)
- He is always everywhere. (Jeremiah 23:23-24)
- He is perfectly wise. (Romans 11:33)
- He is always faithful. (Deut. 7:9)
- He is good. (Ps 34:8)
- He is just. (Deut. 32:4)
- He is merciful, compassionate, and kind. (Romans 9:15-16)
- He is gracious. (Ps 145:8)
- He is loving. (1 John 4: 7-8)
- He is holy and perfect. (Mt. 5: 48)
- He is glorious, beautiful, and great. (Habakkuk 3:4)
Because I’m positive that He knows my situation, that nothing is too hard for Him to handle, and that He’s got good plans for me, I’ll keep praying. I’ll continue “planting” my prayers just like I’ll keep planting my tulips each fall. I will see a harvest, and I know it will be good.
Now, this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Cor. 9:6
How about you? What prayers have you “planted” lately? Do you have trouble believing that God hears your prayers? If so, I understand. I’ve been there-done that a time or two! Send me a note, and let’s chat. I’m a great listener and would love to hear from you!
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