There’s nothing like an element of danger to do wonders for your prayer life. Put most of us in a risky situation, and suddenly we’re praying like Billy Graham. Take my friend Jenn for instance. She serves as a small group leader for elementary boys. Can you imagine any more dangerous profession?
A few months ago, she got a lesson that sent her straight to her knees. She opened her e-mail to see that the lesson required marbles. Marbles! She had led these boys long enough to know that they could weaponize anything. Like miniature McGyvers they could transform the most common objects into implements of disaster.
So, Jenn bowed her head and prayed a common mother’s prayer, “Lord, please keep them from throwing marbles at each other or getting them stuck in their noses.”
If ever someone needed an answer to prayer, this was the time. Sunday rolled around and she was still nervous.
When she sat down with her boys, though, she relaxed as she handed out the marbles and saw how excited they were to receive their toy.
She told them firmly, “Do not throw these marbles or stick them in your noses.” Seemed clear enough, right? Unfortunately, she did not mention other body parts. Then she made the mistake of glancing down in her supply basket to pull out her remaining supplies.
She forgot the first rule of children’s ministry. Never take your eyes off of elementary boys.
“Look, Miss Jenn,” one boy said. “I put it in my ear.” Rats. She hadn’t said anything about their ears.
Once again she gave them a stern warning. “Do not put the marbles in your ears.” By this time several boys had to take their marbles out of their ears just to hear her. She realized she hadn’t prayed at all about their ears. Oh well, now she had things under control, and they could move on with their lesson.
Just as she was about to continue, a small quiet boy named Colin approached her and looked up with his big, blue eyes. “Um, Miss Jenn,” he said.
“I put my marble in my pants, and I can’t find it.”
She hadn’t prayed about that possibility either. She laughed to herself and told Colin to stand up and try to shake the marble down his pant leg. He shook and shimmied and wiggled, but still no marble. So Jenn took the cuff of his leg and tried to shake it out herself. Nothing.
While she was in mid-shake, Colin looked down at her and said, “Yeah . . . I think I may have lost it in my underpants.”
All she could think was that it was good thing they got to take those marbles home.
Sometimes when I pray, God answers with a spectacular “yes,” solving my problem or supplying my need. Other times, He tells me plainly, “no” or “wait,” just as I frequently have to tell my own children. Then there are the times when He doesn’t seem to answer at all, times when He feels distant and maddeningly silent. In those seasons I can get bitter or simply choose to wait and trust, knowing that I can count on God’s character.
But my favorite times are the times I pray and God answers with the unexpected, the ridiculous, the hilarious, the adventure that gives me great stories to make me smile later down the road. Some days when life is so hectic and I feel like I’m losing my marbles I think of Colin and pray a little that God won’t just give me what I ask for but what I truly need.