I was recently talking with friends who are pastors of a small church in the south of England and asking about developments in their congregation post-COVID.
As in so many congregations, the pandemic caused many to drop out of the habit of attending Sunday services. This was especially true of those who are older and more vulnerable. And although social distancing restrictions have eased or been removed entirely, numbers have not rebounded and their church is now actively rebuilding its congregation by seeking to attract more in their community who have felt isolated or marginalized.
As in most churches, music and congregational singing are an integral part of their worship and so they prayed fervently for many weeks that God would provide a pianist/musician to help. They were consistent and focussed in their pleas to the Lord and for quite some time nothing seemed to happen.
However, one Sunday, through a convoluted chain of connections, a woman came to their service looking for a place to worship. She felt comfortable since the friendly environment and people made it so. However, she did say that she just wanted to come and worship and not be involved in any other way. After a few weeks she began to become more active and interactive and began to invite friends and others in need.
Then she revealed that she was a musician and could play piano! But wait!, there’s more!
Then she began to take leadership roles in other ministries, and eventually was willing and able to lead services while my pastor friends were out of the country visiting family!
The whole point is that they prayed for a pianist, but what they got was not only a pianist but so much more!
This brings to mind some scriptures which are instructive:
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20 NLT
“…your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:32-33 NLT
“I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Malachi 3:10 NLT
“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:11 NLT
Sometimes we seem to expect too little in answer to our prayers!
God is not stingy!
Not only does He not have to be — “infinity” is a really big amount — but it’s in His nature to be lavishly generous!
It is undeniable that focussed prayer is good.
Being specific in what we pray for solidifies in our minds what it is we are asking God for, but the evidence points to the answers to those prayers being overwhelmingly broad and generous! God will give us not just what we asked for (in his will) but additionally what He knows will be to our benefit in the future.
We may not have even known we needed to ask Him! His timing will be perfect.
So, may I suggest that while our prayers can and should be narrowly focussed, our attention to the answers needs to be broad so that our praise for His immense grace does not go unacknowledged!
God has this habit of showing up and showing off!
And wait! There will be (lots) more!
He is infinite in so many ways!
Don’t try and confine His grace to the narrow scope of your needs.
Give Him space to bless your socks off!
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black
P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at https://www.salvationarmyconcordca.org/chronicle/?category=Bible%20Study