Forks left in the sink. Wet clothes left in the washing machine. Cups and paper plates left in the living room. Lollipop wrapper left sitting on the counter where someone opened it. Shoes left here, there and yonder. Dog food bag left sitting on the counter. (And the most disgusting one: pee left in the toilet!!)
These things scream at me that every one in this family is stopping short. Stopping short of opening that dishwasher and putting the dirty dishes you just used away. Stopping short of getting the laundry all the way done. Stopping short of taking your snack mess out of the living room. Stopping short by not throwing away the paper from the candy you are walking around eating. Stopping short of putting shoes back in their proper place because it is just too easy to slip them off and forget about them. Stopping short of finishing the whole job of feeding the dog by leaving the bag of food out on the counter. And stopping short of being a decent human being by not flushing the toilet for goodness sake! It all pushed me over the edge, and I came up with a theme for this season of life: TAKE THE NEXT STEP. Don’t stop short; quit being lazy and selfish. Even if you are thirsty, the next step would be to ASK SOMEONE ELSE IF THEY WOULD LIKE SOMETHING TO DRINK. Or say you are doing laundry and find Mom’s towels in the dryer ready to be folded. Don’t just take the clean towels and flop them on her bed. FOLD THE TOWELS AND PUT THEM AWAY FOR YOUR DEAR MOTHER WHO GAVE YOU LIFE. I think you get my point. And I bet you have these same issues in your home. None of us want selfish kids, growing up to be selfish adults that never take the next step. Adults that always stop short of excellence.
Well, this theme of stopping short has also been coming up in my walk with The Lord. I have been so convicted about my prayer life. On Sunday mornings Dr. Shaddix has been teaching through some of the Psalms and has emphasized the WHY of our prayers. Over and over the psalmist prays or deliverance SO THAT He can tell of God’s faithfulness or tell of God’s glory and goodness to future generations.
Psalm 79:9-10 “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your Name; And deliver us and forgive us for Your Name’s sake.”
Psalm 71: 17-18 “O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.”
Psalm 67:1-2 “God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us—That Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations.”
And there are many more. It got me thinking about my prayers of late. I asked myself, “What would be the next step in this prayer? How can I not stop short in my prayers—praying from selfish motives or out of a desire for an easy life?”
For example, I pray for my home school curriculum choices. This season is usually when all the decisions for the fall have been made, but this year I am struggling with a couple of decisions. I am researching and reading and looking at samples of curriculum online. I am comparing prices, and I am tired of thinking about it all if I am honest. But I rolled this care on to The Lord, knowing He cares for me. And I am no longer praying that I would know which curriculum to buy so that I can stop researching and thinking about it. I am not going to pray that I choose the right curriculum so that I don’t mess my kids up for whatever college they want to go to or whatever is next for their lives. I don’t pray for the perfect home school curriculum so that I won’t be embarrassed by their education at the end of their high school career. But a better prayer is that I would choose the right curriculum for each of my kids so that they are prepared for whatever God has for them. I want them to pursue Him above all else and walk out the purposes He already has planned for each of them SO THAT THEIR LIVES BRING HIS NAME MUCH GLORY! NOT so they won’t embarrass me or cause me trouble or heartache in the years to come.
I pray for our neighbors to want to come to church or want to have a relationship with us because I don’t want to go to church alone week after week. Well, a better prayer is that God would stir our neighbors’ hearts and other people we come in contact with during the week SO THAT HIS NAME IS GLORIFIED THROUGH SALVATIONS AND CHANGED LIVES.
I pray for health, especially when I am sick because I don’t like how I feel when I am sick. I want to be healthy because life works best when I am healthy. But what about praying that God would keep me healthy SO THAT I CAN BE PHYSICALLY ABLE TO MOVE AND GO ABOUT LIFE HELPING OTHERS AND SHARING JESUS WITH PEOPLE ALL ALONG THE WAY?
I want our church to find a new pastor because it would be nice to know who the next leader is, so we can move on with the “new.” Well, what about praying that God would bring the right pastor soon SO THAT OUR CHURCH CAN MOST EFFECTIVELY GLORIFY GOD’S NAME AND BE A STRONG CHURCH, READY TO REACH OUR CITY FOR JESUS?
As I have examined my prayers, I am finding that in most of my requests, I am stopping short. In most of my prayers, there is a next step, a more Christ-honoring step that purifies my motives and my heart, that takes the focus off of making my life easier and more comfortable, and rather making my life more like Christ. And I am reminded of taking the next step any time I find dishes in the sink, laundry sitting the washer, shoes left randomly in the house or that blasted toilet sitting there in need of a flush. TAKE THE NEXT STEP!