Perhaps the #1 reason why we pray is because we need God. We come in great need to Someone who suggests that He might meet our needs for us, something no man has ever done before. We have not seen this kind of love this side of heaven. We discover God’s amazing goodness and generosity, and we are compelled to love Him more.
But prayer is not meant to end at the meeting of our needs! We begin here, but soon realize that our needs are meant to be a gateway into greater experiences with God. It is always relationship that God seeks with us. He means to be Father, not just Provider! To focus on God as Jehovah-Jireh alone is to miss the myriad other aspects of His character and Names, to miss the greatness of Him.
The short story that follows is meant to illustrate our passage from beggars to sons and daughters. Our story unfolds like that of a weary traveler:
We come to God fearful, thirsty, impoverished and battered by our journey, to what seems like a mirage in a dry, never-ending desert. The water ahead of us shimmers in the sunlight. To our great delight we find that this is no mirage; this is real water: in fact, it is an overflowing well! All we have hoped for, all we will ever need we find here, in the unlikely place of our desert.
Isaiah 35 comes to life for us: “…waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitation of jackals, where each lay, there shall be grass with reeds and rushes.” (Isaiah 35:6-7, NKJV.)
Like Joshua, we camp out in amazement near this living water. Our hearts are as calloused as our feet from the hardness of the places we have walked. Yet here, the grass is soft beneath our feet and the air is cool.
Who owns this well? we wonder. “The well is God’s,” others tell us who have come before. “He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and all the ancient wells are His.”
Timidly, we pitch our tent here, not wanting to leave such goodness, such satisfaction. The sight of the water is beautiful, its coolness refreshing. We remain here long after the heat of the sun fades, long after tradition or common decency tells us it is time to move on.
We are told that with this God, there is no worry of overstaying our welcome: indeed, He is laughing; He delights in the ones around His throne! It seems like He almost wants to share this abundance with people. Who is like Him?
Listen – do you hear Him? He is singing over us! So joyful is this God, He cannot contain Himself. He leaps in exultation at the sight of the thirsty ones splashing in the water around His throne!
We are embarrassed at first. After all, we came to get something, not to give! Our pockets are empty; does He realize we cannot pay Him back? Why does He delight so in those who resemble only beggars and thieves?
But we hoped for a crumb; we found a loaf. We scavenged for coins but happened upon a bank! We didn’t realize who He was – a King! Now He is showering His grace upon us like rain and, helplessly, we do not know what to do, how to react. Should we gather the loaves in our cloaks and store them, lest they disappear? Will there be more loaves tomorrow?
At first, we do not know. Such joy overwhelms us, a stark contrast to the depression we have carried for so long. We do not care; look, we have bread and water! We sit and ration what we have, hungrily sharing portions with our friends, but still setting some aside. We know better than to use it all up at once.
We sleep peacefully for the first time in years. We cannot leave this place yet – not yet, for we are still too weary and the journey has been too much.
The sun rises again; we wake and survey our new surroundings. Is it still there, that goodness? “Yes,” say the others with a smile, “for God’s mercies are new every morning!” What this means we cannot fathom; no one has an endless supply of anything, and we should know!
Yet the water sparkles in the sunlight, and someone has set out new loaves of bread for breakfast. Again, we help ourselves, wondering how we will afford this but too hungry to care. Later, having eaten, we ask and find that it is all free. Loaves multiply, and the “living water” knows no end!
After many such days living near this Kingdom, we come to realize that the King’s goodness really is endless, His resources renewable. He did all this on purpose, we discover; He knew we were hungry and He prepared a feast to draw us to Him.
We want to never leave! How could we purchase the rights to this land, we wonder? How could we live nearby so that we, too, will never run out?
“It is simple,” the others tell us. “If you believe in God’s goodness all this will be yours, too. Go and speak to the King, and you will see.”
Speak to the King? Now? We examine our tattered rags, look with shame at the buckets of water and the pile of bread we have hastily stored up near our tent. Will He know we have stolen from Him, having never met Him? What about our rags? How can we appear before a King when we are half naked and unclean?
We linger for days, arguing amongst ourselves and wondering whether such a trip to a King is worth it. Will He not chastise us like all the others from whom we have stolen? And what can we say to excuse ourselves? There is nothing; we know we are worthless and have nothing of value to offer this man.
Our fears keep us close to the tent and far from the throne. At least, we think, we can remain hidden amongst the others for the time being.
Daily, our ongoing need gnaws at us as eagerly as we gnaw on our newfound loaves. Our home cannot be temporary, we know; our family needs more than a tent to dwell in. The thought of wandering in the desert again sickens us, makes us fear for our children. And so we go; we swallow our pride, put on our best rags, and we go to the King.
So awesome is this King when we approach that we are compelled to bow down, to close our eyes against this glorious light. Even the desert was not as bright as this! Yet the light does not scorch; how can this be? It warms us, but does not burn us.
As we approach the throne, the atmosphere changes. The air seems almost to hum, as if supercharged with electricity. Our senses come acutely alive; we do not know what to expect.
Suddenly, we feel liquid love, like golden honey sticking to us. Amazed, we lick a drop of it from our skin and it tastes sweet and delicious. It fills us with an energy and a hope we did not know we could have. It is His Word, we realize; the King is speaking to us!
Words never tasted so good, we think. Instead of lashes, we feel His love. Instead of bruises, we see ourselves healing. Our bodies and our rags are transformed in His Presence, taking on the glow of heaven even as He speaks. Look at us! Water swirls around our ankles, and we are becoming iridescent, sparkling like the pool in which we stand!
The King’s words are unmistakable. We have not learned His language, yet He is speaking ours. We are convicted. We did not take the time to know Him, yet it is clear that He already knows us. It would be impossible, we realize, not to know when He was speaking.
The King approaches. He turns a key in the doors of our hearts, unlocking the very secrets we thought were hidden and showing them to us, one by one. All the earth, it seems, trembles with us under the weight of His Words. We cannot respond. For one horrible moment, there is deafening silence.
Then suddenly, He breathes upon our secrets and they are gone. Like a puff of wind, He blows them away, lost to the endless spaces of the surrounding desert. He closes the doors of our hearts again, and locks them. We feel lighter, airy, as if we could float up and fly with the angels who stir the air near His throne.
“You will be back,” He whispers, as our time together ends. “I have always known you, but now you know Me.”
And it is true. We already long to come back again, to taste this goodness, to feel this lightness, to soar with these angels and to dance in these waters around His throne. What joy! We are like those who dream!
Such encounters are the reason we return, day after day, to the place of prayer. Like a never-ending well in the desert, prayer restores us, gives us hope, and empowers us with an energy that cannot be found in the natural world. As we abide close to Him, the source of our provision, we in time discover all the other wonderful things He is.
There is no shame in needing God. The world we come from tells us our need is a weakness, but we know that our need has brought us to the richest place we could ever imagine. We thirst no longer. We have been given an inheritance we can now pass on to our children, much greater than the rags and tents we owned before. Our land is verdant, watered by the streams of heaven. Our crops are abundant. We have new life, new joy, and a new purpose, building a highway through the desert so that others can travel more quickly to the living water we have found.
It is not the King’s will that anyone should perish. Having sated ourselves, we now live for the others. And the King, pleased Himself, is still singing and dancing, waiting for the day when all will come and dance in these waters with Him.
c. Deborah Perkins / www.HisInscriptions.com
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.