By: Dennis Bates
Be careful what you ask for. I don’t know how many times I’ve given that advice or received it myself. For example, I invited a good friend of mine to a book signing (read excuse for a party) this weekend and told him to wear whatever he felt comfortable wearing. He reminded me that he is the same person who, with very little prodding, came to a party dressed as the Easter Bunny and handed out chocolate eggs all night to the amusement and bewilderment of the attendees. Believe me, this guy was one very large bunny, who played the role zealously. When I remembered that incident I quickly revised my response and told him that dress was casual. Hopefully that will erase the image of a six foot bunny hopping around my living room from my memory banks.
I am discovering that when you ask the Holy Spirit for something, you have to be at least as careful as I was with my friend, or even more. When I decided to retire from my day job as a government attorney and take what could be my last chance to do what I’ve always wanted to do, write, I joined my cohort in faith on this blog in praying daily the Prayer of Jabez. I solicited help from several other people, including several people from my church. For those of you not familiar with the prayer, it is a short, long forgotten prayer found at 1 Chronicles 4:10, and it goes like this:
And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying,”Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.
The original commitment was to pray that for one month and keep track of what changes you experienced in your life. I have never quit praying that prayer in my morning devotions and neither has a woman in my church. Did it work? Let’s put it this way, there is not enough space here for me to give you all the changes in my life since I started praying that prayer, but I think that says more about prayer in general than it does any specific prayer, including this one.
I had written two medium length novels when I started praying the Prayer of Jabez, and I had a third stuck in the black hole most people call writer’s block. When I started praying that prayer, I added a line telling the Holy Spirit that this story was His and asking that He use my fingers to write it the way He wanted it. (I do that with everything I write now.) The story came out of the hole and almost beat me to the end. The name of it is “Under the Burr Oak Tree,” the first novel I have published. It came out officially last Sunday. Even though that sounds like a shameless plug, let me assure you, all of this is true.
All you have to do is focus on two parts of the verse to see why it has such power. They are “enlarge my territory,” and my favorite part of the verse, the last line. “So God granted him what he requested.” The line makes me laugh. It’s almost as if God is leaning casually against a tree gnawing on a half eaten apple when Jabez makes his impassioned plea. God simply nods and grants his wish, yawning and saying, “You got any tough ones for me?”
There are no tough ones for God, so why are we so amazed when He gives us what we ask for? It may not always be the answer we want or in the form we wanted, but He always answers when we ask. So when I started writing for Him and asking Him to find a place where my somewhat nontraditional stories could be published, I ended up here, and even though I shouldn’t be surprised because I did ask, I am still amazed.
But I haven’t had a chance to enjoy the amazement for long. I have a radio interview today, a book signing this weekend and several more planned. I am now trying to finish my sixth book in less than two years, get going on a seventh, keep up commitments to blog, do a little consulting, and by the way, did I tell you I retired two years ago?
When you really ask God for something earnestly, be careful what you ask for because he will answer; I guarantee it, and you better be ready to be busy and be dazzled, but take it from me, it’s the most exciting thing you will ever do!