Guest Writer: Allison Mullins (www.prayer4unity.com)
Recently the campus location of my church held a series of Wednesday night gatherings. For each session, the church’s Bible study small groups were tasked with arranging for food. Our turn came with the final meeting and some men from the group, my incredible husband among them, generously made, picked up, and set up the food order from a local restaurant.
As it turned out, it was a perfect storm. First, the men trusted the restaurant when it promised that the amount ordered would be enough to feed 60 people. They did not allow for the fact that more people would want the hearty lasagna than might opt for the gluten-free pasta with marinara. Second, the men used as their count the number of people who responded to say they were coming. They did not add in a “cushion” in case more showed up. Third, whoever cut the lasagna into pieces cut extra-large portions, such that many of the first folks through the line each ended up with what could have been several servings.
These are wonderful, multi-talented men. They are smart, strong, and can successfully overcome most any challenge put in front of them. But they are not accustomed to having primary responsibility for food arrangements for a large group. And they do not share the fears that most every hostess has frequently encountered—running out. And thus, they did not compensate for that fear by ordering extra. In fact, for my husband, a gathering is more successful if there are no leftovers, if the amount is “just right” so that there is no waste.
I once read a story about a new courthouse that had been built with a glass staircase as its centerpiece. Lovely as it was, after construction was complete, it was discovered that women in skirts and dresses could not use the staircase because people gathered under it, intentionally or not, could look under their clothing as they ascended. The glass staircase, designed as the focal point of the building, was going to have to go. My first thought when reading the article was that if a woman had been involved in the design of the courthouse, that particular problem would not have happened. Women have the experience of thinking of such things—modesty when wearing a skirt—while men simply do not. We all bring different perspectives and strengths to any situation. Experience is a powerful teacher.
When we have a gathering at our house, there is consistently a lot of food left over. I am a chronic over-supplier because I am focused on having enough for all. As a result, there is sometimes a lot of waste—a different form of a less-than-ideal outcome. In fact, my husband’s approach of seeking to have just enough and no more is surely the more responsible one in a variety of ways. But I can say with certainty that my approach (and my experience with the fear of not having enough) would have averted what happened at our church gathering when, with at least 20 people left in line, the lasagna was gone.
This fact did not bother my husband. We still had pasta and salad. No one was going to starve. And we would not end up with waste at the end of the night. All good. I, however, was mortified and began to undertake a “root cause” analysis for the situation. How had this happened and how could we have avoided it?
I was so bothered, in fact, that I woke up at 4 a.m. still thinking about it. So I did what I do when awake at 4 a.m.—I prayed. I first started praying for God to just take the concern away from me—after all, it was over and we could not change it. Why did it even bother me so much? But then, I went back to my root cause analysis. And God decided, as He so often does, to use this as a teaching moment. “You have not because you ask not.” (See James 4:2).
A well-known story from Jesus’s life on earth is the miracle of the loaves and the fish—when five loaves and two fish were multiplied to feed five thousand men and their wives and children, with twelve baskets of bread left over. (See John 6:1-15). God multiplies to meet our need. There are many examples of it in the Bible. There are many examples of it in my own life. But we have to do our part—and our part is to ask. “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8). God is always willing and always able. But He would like us to invite him into the situation.
Looking back on it, it is actually amazing to me that none of us (myself quite obviously included) thought to pray for sufficiency. We were at a church gathering. There were a lot of people there very aware of the power of prayer, people who know that God cares for us in the big and the small. There were prayer warriors at every stage of the gathering—from the idea, to the planning, to the execution.
Why did we not ask? What will it take for our default to always be prayer—in every circumstance and situation? When we will recognize that the “root cause” of every earthly problem is actually a human failing—but the failure is that we do not ask, we do not pray, we do not submit the situation to Him. Oh God, help.
God invites us to bring everything to Him. To some, it might seem silly to “bother” God with something as mundane as lasagna at a church gathering. But God delights in his people and nothing, absolutely nothing, is too small—or too big—for Him. Although they might have been uncomfortable, no one at Jesus’s gathering was likely to starve either—but still He multiplied the food so that each one had plenty. “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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7). Everything. All means all. I’ll stick with what God says—and what He does.
I do not know what would have happened if any one of us had prayed over the lasagna. But I know that I would not have been up at 4 a.m. worrying about it. God is not a god of worry. God is the God of provision. God is not a god of fear. God is the God of faith. Could He have multiplied the lasagna? Sure He could. Could He have caused more to be ordered—even giving the person making the order the idea to order more? Sure He could. Could He have caused the portions to be cut in a more reasonable size? Sure He could. He could have solved the problem in a variety of ways. But someone, somewhere along the way, needed to ask for the provision.
We have access to the God of the universe. And the most awesome and amazing part is that He wants to be intimately involved in our lives—in the big and the small and in everything that is a concern to us. The lasagna is a very small thing. My husband is right—no one starved. But if we learn to be faithful in the small things, to ask in the small things, to submit our petitions with the small things—we will have the experience when the big things loom on the horizon. If we set our default always to prayer, always to ask, always to invite God in to every situation, we will be completely amazed by all of the ways that God shows up. We will see solutions to problems big and small. We will see Amazing come forth. And we will avert disasters before they ever have the chance to form. We have not because we ask not. In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, submit your request to God. All means all. So let us purpose ourselves to ask. Let us purpose ourselves to submit. Let us purpose ourselves for prayer. And in our petitions, may the big problem become small and the small problem become non-existent. “And my God will supply all your need, according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19). Yes and Amen. It is the time for multiplication. It is the time for miracles. It is the time—it is always the time in every situation and circumstance—for prayer.