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“For your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:8b ESV

Jesus dropped this little jewel while instructing his disciples on prayer. Think for a moment and consider its implications. How often are we driven to prayer in desperation? Few prayers compare to these. They tend to be the ones we really want answered. Forget want, we really need answered, have to have answered! Faced with the clear assurance of our own lack or ability to meet the current challenge, we cry out to God for intervention. He is the only one who can help us. But will He? This question is soon followed by the real doubt of our trial: can He?

Silly as it seems to doubt the capabilities of the Creator of the heavens and the earth, I’ve found myself doing it often. When I am uncomfortable with honestly facing my doubt, then I deflect my faults of faith on Him. It’s not that I doubt – no, that can’t be it – or that He is unable. It’s that He may be unwilling. Denying my shortcomings and doubting His power thus becomes the most debilitating doubt of all: doubting His love. Pretentious piety comes to my rescue with religious rationales for the comeliness of a timid spirit.[1]

“I’ve brought this on myself; I can’t expect Him to answer.” This lie helps me make His love conditional to my righteousness. “My cares are minor compared to the real crises crushing others; I can’t expect Him to be bothered.” This lie keeps me “humble” as I limit His love by my insignificance. “This is part of His plan. He’s allowing me to suffer for His sovereign purposes; I can’t expect to know why.”  This lie keeps me from His revealing love and converts Him into a controlling king, a God made in my own image: one who hurts others for his own selfish desires.[2]

Thankfully, the Lord is longsuffering with my wandering heart. He never stops reaching out to me, continually prodding me to come to His side and let His love rule my heart. I had just such an encounter recently in which He reminded me of the simple truth of His love manifested through His foreknowledge.

Genesis 2:15 KJV[3]
And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

Work is a blessing to man, not part of the curse. God desires to meet us in the ordinary actions of our lives: working, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, tending our gardens. Seeking Him while doing things we actually feel competent doing builds true humbleness and is a road of happiness.

Colossians 3:23-24
23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

I was tending my “garden” last week, happily praising the Lord for the blessing of His creation and the privilege of property. We have crepe myrtles on one edge of our land that the previous owners had neglected for years. I was busily pruning the branches away with my hand saw and had one drop into the crotch of the tree instead of falling into the ditch as I thought it would.

Branch 1

This would not have been disconcerting had I been working from a ladder or cutting it with a pole saw from the ground. But the picture below shows where I was standing when this ten foot branch fell.

Branch 2

This near miss caused me to pause and consider my ways. I could have proudly called it skill and convinced myself that it landed where I had intended it to. But there are limitations to the lies I’ll believe, even if I am telling them to myself. Luck then, except that there is no such thing. I finally decided to call it mercy that it was the crepe myrtle’s crotch, not mine, that caught the falling branch. I thanked the Lord and continued on my course without changing my ways. I climbed back up into the center of the tree and started sawing away once more. But then I came to a larger limb and took inventory of where I was hemmed in.

I was fenced inside the tree, my back against the secondary trunks. The limb in question had a slight lean toward the ditch, but so had the one that had swung between my legs. And not only did this one have a larger diameter, I had nowhere to dodge. If it swung into the tree instead of falling forward I would be in trouble. What to do? Well, there is much I could have done and plenty I should have done; none of which I did.

I should have stepped out of the tree and gotten a better perspective of my situation, but I was too focused on the task at hand. I could have gone to the shed and grabbed a ladder, but my perch in the tree was too convenient. I could have waited and sought counsel, but I was too proud and impatient. I could have abandoned the whole project, but it had to get done, didn’t it? Blind to my faults and sure of my mission, I boldly pushed forward past my “fears”. (Oh, how fine the line between faith and presumption, prudence and fear!)

I took my saw in hand and cut away through the wood. My apprehension grew with the deepening of the groove and I prayed, “Lord, please don’t let this limb fall into me. I don’t have anywhere else to go. Keep me safe, Lord.” I prayed, I sweat, and I sawed. And then the totally unexpected happened.[4]

Branch Cut

With baited breath, I sliced through the entire limb and nothing happened. It didn’t drop to the ditch. It didn’t crash into my chest. It didn’t move at all. Impossible! I was jubilant, thankful, curious. How? It was then that I looked up to where my help came from.

Branch Cut 2

I was in a predicament of my own production. Embraced in the fence of the tree, I saw no way of escape. Focused on the task at hand (The Cut) and the trouble ahead (The Lean), I never took time to consider the foreknowledge of my Father (The Hold). It is exactly because of our limited perspective and our predisposition to pride that we need to pray. The beauty of our life in Him is that none of our cares catch Him by surprise for He knows what we need before we ask Him. Though we experience the answer – our deliverance – after we ask, His answer came long before we called out. Let’s take a closer look at the living line that kept me from being lanced by the limb.

Branch Pierce 1

The hold that saved me from the danger the lean posed because of my cut was actually a Branch that pierced through the limb. Long before I got myself in a jam and prayed for safety, my Father the Gardner[5] guided the growth of the tree. He watched over the branches. He watched over the limbs. And He watched over me. His love rescued me. In His hands grew the tree. A prayer uttered in immediate need had been answered with forethought and deed. And the piercing He directed saved me.

Romans 5:8-9
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

1 John 4:9-10
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In the graceful growth of a flowering tree, the good Lord reminded me of His forethoughtful love for me. Looming troubles are but already solved problems to Him. He desires to show Himself mighty to those He loves. We simply need to ask and receive.

Ephesians 3:20-21
20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

[1] 2 Tim 1:7
[2] Antidotes to these lies can be found in the following Scriptures (among others): Rom 5:8-9; 8:27-39; Acts 3:12; 1 Pet 5:6-7; John 15:15; 1 Cor 2:9-10.
[3] All Scriptures are from the King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.
[4] Eph 3:20-21
[5] John 15:1