I have long been guilty of praying with a short list of potential outcomes in mind. It has only been in the last few years that God has given me eyes to see the creative ways he answers my prayers…ways I wouldn’t have predicted or maybe even chosen. Jimmy’s words once again remind me to ask “What is God up to?” in my current circumstances. I’m thinking it has more to do with making me look like Jesus than it does about changing my circumstances.

– Dana Smith, Women’s Equipping Coordinator

When you pray, do you only have one answer that you will accept? Or do you leave open the idea that God may have another way to answer your prayer?

Two perspectives have led me to see how God’s plan for me can meet my deep desires. They have been like keys that have opened a new door to understanding how God works to prepare us for a future assignment. I had really kind of given up on ever using a gift I believed that I was given many years ago. I loved helping people understand God’s Word and be able to apply the truth to their daily lives. A church pastor or para-church worker seemed like the best role for me to use that desire. Perhaps this story will help you see that God is not bound by tradition or denomination, but freely gives gifts and freely directs the use of those gifts for His church, the body of Christ.

God is the Creator and He has 100 ways to answer my prayer, so I’m sure He has a better plan.    – Frances Chan

Pastor Frances Chan recently shared a story of how a young, Christian woman was not disappointed when a prayer was not answered as she had expected. The woman’s response was, “God is the Creator and He has 100 ways to answer my prayer, so I’m sure He has a better plan.”

I, also, heard Dr. Derek Grier say in a sermon, “If Plan A doesn’t work, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet.” Dr. Grier also shared this quote attributed to the author Stephen King, “God is the only one who gets it right the first time.”

A different plan

So, with that as background, this is what struck me one Sunday morning as I entered the sanctuary of my church. A few years ago I made a run at becoming a church staff member and thought about going to seminary. Early in my life I had been a campus minister and had applied to and was accepted at a major seminary. My path went a different route.

I decided to intern with a campus ministry for a year before heading off to seminary. During that year, God opened several doors for learning and developing my skills for helping young Christians to grow in their faith and in following Jesus. I decided that I wanted to continue with that ministry on multiple college campuses. A few years later, the organization asked me to tell the stories of college students following Jesus with media, churches and the larger public. So, I took that step, which I did for another handful of years. That led to decades of professional roles in communications and marketing.

From time to time, I had wondered if I should’ve gone to seminary and followed that vocational path. I doubted if I was following the plan God had for me. Perhaps my understanding of God’s ways was limited.

Now, many years later, I see a different plan being worked out in me and for me. I’m a pastor-at-large through writing. Every day, I receive and review Biblical content and present it through writing in an effort to engage people in learning about God and personally getting to know God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am challenged to make sure the truth of Scripture is presented in a way that is winsome, interesting and helpful.

It is a sacred calling, which gives me joy, a sense of responsibility and peace. Thus, my writing is easy. That’s right; it’s easy. In the same way that Jesus invites us to take His burden and give Him ours, I feel as though I’ve been given Jesus’ “light” burden in exchange for my heavy burden of doubt and regret regarding whether I’m doing what God has called me and gifted me to do. I believe we too often live with heaviness because we are putting worldly expectations on God instead of allowing His heavenly expectations to embody us, to fill and infuse us.

How do you infuse tea with fruit?

Steep your green tea with fresh fruit as another way to add a fruity flavor to the tea. When you steep green tea bags, add lemon wedges, strawberries, raspberries or peaches to the liquid. As the fruit soaks in the warm water, it will draw some of the flavor into the tea.

How to infuse medicine into your body?

Using an IV we allow a liquid to flow into a vein, as a way to get the medicine or liquid into our systems.

How does the Spirit infuse us with God’s being?

As we soak in God’s Word, we are infused with His perspective and principles. He also supernaturally puts His Spirit in our hearts so that our whole lives can be infused with guidance, peace and gifting.

“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” – Deuteronomy 8:3 (NIV)

we can choose to take our burden back or continue to carry the light burden.

So, as we open ourselves to God, worship Him and bring ourselves fully – our whole heart – to Him, He infuses purpose, talent and fruit into our lives.  As that infusing changes us, it allows God to lead us into the places and vocations He wants for us. In the process, God wants to build our faith in Him. That means we will go through times when we can choose to take our burden back or continue to carry the light burden. It’s an amazing, but difficult process. Some never learn it and carry a heavy burden all of their lives. It is layered with their own and other people’s expectations and regrets. Others learn it and carry Jesus’s light burden.

Therefore, I feel that I’m the beneficiary of one of the 100 other creative solutions to my desire and prayer to be a pastor or a spiritual director or a contemplative or a professor. I’m using the gift of God I’ve received and cooperating with the Holy Spirit to bring transformation, conviction and healing.

I am the most blessed person I know, because I have seen God’s gift come to fruition in my daily endeavors. Seeing from the inside out brings joy and thankfulness.

 


One Step Further:

  1. Where in your life are you tempted to complain or doubt God’s plan?
  2. How might He be using these current circumstances to answer prayers?  (i.e. Prayers to increase your faith, prayers to make you more like Jesus, prayers to transform your thinking, etc.)
  3. What is God asking you to surrender to His Larger Story that includes His limitless creativity?

 

Interested in reading works by Jimmy Locklear? Check out his books A Sacred Heart Attack,  Simple, Direct & From the Heart: The Prayers of Jesus: A Seven-Day JourneyHeart Journey: Following Jesus to the Heart of God: Thirty Studies in the Gospel of St. Matthew with Stories on My Journey, and Heart Journey 2: Going Forward in Love: Thirty Guided Reflections and Essays.