Giving and Receiving
A few weeks ago at a prayer meeting, we were praying over our finances when someone felt like God was trying to tell us something. “Don’t be afraid to be generous and give even when you feel like you are the ones in need.” Little did this person know that Michelle and I had already been feeling like we were supposed to give to a couple in our discipleship community who was struggling to pay their bills and who had just given birth to their third kid. This was direct confirmation.
Michelle and I are in the habit of asking specific questions. When I was growing up I was taught (by watching others) to pray general, vague prayers. For example, “God, if it’s your will please do whatever it is you want to do in this situation.” These prayers are not un-Biblical, just unhelpful. Even if God does answer this pray, I would have no idea because I don’t actually know what I asked for in the first place. So, when He does answer, I remain unaware and unable to give praise for a specific thing that God did, because I have no idea if or how God responded. General prayers generally do nothing. Is that too bold of a thing to say? It’s okay, because I stole that line, so if it makes you mad you can blame… not me.
I understand the emotional difficulty in making specific prayers. “What if He doesn’t actually do that? What then?”, “Am I just assuming to know what God’s will is and imposing that on Him?”, “What if I ask for something that’s bad?” are all very difficult and valid questions.
- It is possible to know the will of God.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2
- God wants us to ask.
You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. James 4:2-3
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 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 7:7-11
Specific prayers result in specific responses from God. When God answers specifically, our faith grows, the faith of whoever was the source of that answered prayer grows and we all give God glory. Win.
So, if it was truly God’s will for us to give to this family as reveal and tested within this community prayer time, then I no longer had to question whether or not I was praying according to His will. What I needed to do now was respond.
Michelle and I both asked God a specific question along these lines, “Father, how much do you want us to give to ______?” We both “got” a number… meaning that a number came to our minds very naturally. There was no booming voice nor did we pass out and hear something in a trance. I’m totally down with all that stuff, but it didn’t happen then.
The numbers that we each got were slightly different. For us, that’s not a huge problem anymore. When we first started asking specifically for direction like this it was a difficult thing to reconcile. Now, we view it more as clues in a treasure hunt. The answer isn’t the treasure, it is only whatever God wants to give us in order to lead us where He wants us to go. If that’s the case, it doesn’t matter exactly what He tells us, just that we go where He is leading.
It is God’s privilege to conceal things and the king’s privilege to discover them. Proverbs 25:2
In this case, we went with the higher number because God has shown us over and over that He responds to our generosity with his own disproportionately greater generosity.
The very next week Michelle and I received two different spontaneous, unrelated gifts from some other people within our discipleship community. The amount of those two gifts perfectly equaled the lower amount that God had told us to give! So cool! Praise God. He really does know what He is doing. He is a much better leader than I am a follower.
But, wait, we gave the higher number and He provided for the lower number… What does that mean? Did we get it wrong? Maybe. Or maybe He has something else up His sleeve that I’m not aware of yet. Or maybe it was His way of allowing Michelle and me to be blessed by giving on a level where we actually ended up losing something in the end. In the long, eternal, run I doubt that anyone will even lose out by being too generous!