Picture this: You go to the mailbox with your payment to the power company. You drop the envelope into the box and then wait for the postal employee to pick it up, which, in few hours, she does. You then hop into her postal truck and accompany her on her rounds, returning to the postal center with her. You then walk boldly in with her to the sorting area, searching desperately for just a glimpse of your bill. You spy it. All is well.
You then watch the sorting process. You are contentedly keeping your eye on the bill, sitting beneath a stack of other letters and bills. When your bill goes into the delivery bag, you are standing right there, waiting to go with it to its destination. You once again pop into the delivery truck and away you go with the postal mail bags.
You haven't slept in days. You need a shower. But you will not rest until that letter reaches its destination. You want to watch the power company employee open that bill, and credit your account.
You grab some zzzz's in the truck that is carrying the postal bags and your bill. It arrives at the post office in the downtown office. You wait, watching, hoping the day comes soon when you bill hits the power company's desk.
After much sorting and loading, away goes your bill, headed to the power company's office. You rejoice, although you have slept poorly, eaten poorly and have been in constant worry about that bill. You accompany the postal employee as he delivers the mail to the company; you then walk boldly to the elevators, because you will be there when the envelope is opened. You hang around the accounts department. You scan each employee's computer screen, hoping to catch a glimpse of your name on the screen and your account being settled! Wait? It that it? No. Another screen. Is that it? No! Oh, the waiting, the wondering...then you see it! Your name on the computer screen, and joy of all joys, your check's information is being applied to your account. You walk out victorious.
Or do you? What was victorious about dogging every step of the process, exerting as much control over it as you could, even though you were really only watching.
Maybe you should have helped sort the mail?
Drive the truck?
Deliver the bags?
Sort the mail on the other end?
Handed your bill to the accounts person directly?
Hey! Why not bypass the whole USPS process altogether and deliver, in person, your bill to the accounts department?
No! Better yet! Why not hand-deliver the bill yourself, and then excuse the employee and enter the data yourself!
Now, that's victory. You start it, you carry it and you make it happen.
May I present another scenario? How about doing what you know you must do: Write the check, place a stamp on the envelope and put it in the box. Done. Trust the post office to pick it up and trust it will reach its destination. Trust the employee at the power company knows how to enter data and trust that if there is a problem, the power company will let you know.
The second scenario is one we do everyday. Occasionally a problem arises, but overall, we pay our bills and our accounts get credited.
The first scenario leads to exhaustion and a false control over the situation. Our watchful eyes and lack of sleep will not speed up the process in any way. But we think, at least I am doing something!
But is that something really something? Or is it just an anything--anything to keep us distracted from the real issue underlying all our worry and flurry: our fear.
We have more faith in the Post Office than we do in our Lord. We leave our mail in the box and never give it a second thought. Not so with our praying.
Let's look at prayer and how we conduct ourselves after we pray. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is in Acts 12. Peter is miraculously released from prison by angel. He goes to John Mark's house: "He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, 'Peter is standing at the door!'
'You’re out of your mind!' they said. When she insisted, they decided, 'It must be his angel.'
Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. 'Tell James and the other brothers what happened,' he said. And then he went to another place."
So, the apostles were in prayer. Good. But instead of rejoicing in the "answer" knocking at the door, they dismissed the report, came up with their own explanation as to what was happening, and went back to praying. Then, when they got off their knees and went and looked at the "answer"--Peter himself--they were "amazed."
So, let's tie this in to our bill. We have a request to make of God. We have two choices: We can either drop our request into His mailbox: "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:16) or we can hover over the process every day and in every way, exerting some level of control over what we hope will be the answer.
If we trust Him, we rest in Him. We rest in His goodness and mercy, and know He will bring about the best for the situation.
If we don't trust Him, we do not rest in Him. We dog the process with our own worry, concern and fear. We ask Him and then watch, wait and worry. Our faith really isn't faith. It's us exerting control after we've asked Him, for our fear is what is really driving us, not our faith.
Now, if we put the request into His Mailbox, we walk away. We enjoy His company and fellowship, knowing that our request is in good Hands.
One last thing: The process of the Holy Spirit working in the life of someone we care about, or in a situation that we care about, cannot be rushed. Real, lasting change takes time.
So, while we wait on the Lord, we should not complain, act victimized and share our stories as if the envelope isn't in the Box.
In other words, we should not behave as if the envelope isn't in the Box. We behave as if, yes, the check is in the mail: "Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:6)
While we wait, we should be hanging out with Jesus, basking in His presence, not hovering around the Post Office.