And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. – Acts 27:29
Have you ever been in a situation where you actually “prayed for the day to come”? Once I was backpacking with a friend during winter. In a move that seemed to make sense to us at the time, we decided to hike out of Death Valley. We figured that since it is the hottest place on earth, it would be a smart place to backpack in January. These were the days before phones with GPS and even before you could Google whether or not this was a good idea. I bought a paper map, picked a destination that looked to be about 3200 feet above sea level, and started climbing. We climbed and climbed and climbed until we were exhausted, and then we climbed some more. At about the time that we started running out of daylight, we realized that the map we were reading was using a metric scale, so our goal of 3200 was not feet but meters (which works out to 10,498 feet!). By this time, it was starting to get dark, the wind started howling across the mountain, and in a matter of minutes, it got colder than we thought it could get. Little did we know that desserts can have rather drastic temperature swings in the winter. It was January, so the sun went down around 4:45 pm and it wasn’t coming up until 7 am. For 14 hours, all we could do was lay in our sleeping bags and pray “for day to come,” just like those men in charge of the prisoner ship Paul found himself on.
Now, here’s the funny thing about that prayer: It’s a prayer for God to do something that you already know is going to happen. I don’t think these men had any doubt that the day would actually come as if it sometimes decides not to. This was a prayer for their life… as if to say, “God, I want to see the day come! I don’t want to die!”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with a prayer about wanting to live. I want to live! But I just have to point out that it’s a prayer for God to do something that God doesn’t do. God isn’t in the habit of making the earth spin faster on its axis for everyone who prays “for day to come.” God also doesn’t take away people’s free will and change their minds for them, so we shouldn’t pray for that. God doesn’t make people fall in love with you. God doesn’t change bad grades to good ones. God isn’t a magic genie that manipulates the world for your benefit. That’s what I wanted from God up on that mountain, but now I realize that there was a much better prayer. Instead of praying for something to happen to me, I should have prayed for Someone to be there with me. That is a prayer that God will always answer, because God is Emmanuel (“God with us”). That’s really what prayer is all about, not getting God to do things for me, but inviting God to be there with me. So, today, will you join me in praying, not “for day to come,” but for Jesus to come in and enter into every aspect of our lives.
In doing so, we pray, “Maranatha!” “Come, Lord Jesus!”