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Oh No! Martha's Back! Where's that TV Remote!

Read: Luke 11:5-12; Luke 18:1-8

Just when I thought it might be safe to not mute the commercials, Martha popped up in all her glory this week. Yes, the icon of irritability and angst has returned, and she once again doesn't want to call the number to check on possible changes in her Medicare plan. If there is anyone who might have not come to know Martha, in the ad, she offers several reasons she simply won't call that number. Her voice is whiny, and she isn't shy about pouring out several complaints during the back-and-forth conversation she holds. The patient but condescending voice of reason scolds her kind of the way a parent might try to tamp down an unruly six-year-old. In the end, Martha is once again convinced to call and check whether her benefits might change in the up-coming year. She finally comes to the realization that she has nothing to lose, and after all, the call is free. Although the commercial grates a bit on me, Martha's reasons for not calling to check on her Medicare plan are similar to the reasons we or others sometimes give concerning why we are praying less than we previously did. Let's learn a little from Martha.

One reason Martha gives for not calling is that no one will answer the phone. We have all heard someone say that he has stopped praying because he didn't get an answer. At least, not the answer he desired. No one picked up the phone when he called out. Therefore, prayer lessened or stopped completely.

In the psalms, we often read instances where the pray-er cries out and even feels forgotten by God, Psalm 13:1-3; Psalm 44:24. Yet the scriptures assure us with the truth that God hears the prayers of His children, Psalm 34:17; 1 John 5:14-15.

So, on one hand, our feelings which are very real say one thing, but the truth says another. Often what God does in response to our cries isn't yet seen by us. We know He is at work because of His promises to hear and answer. No wonder we are often reminded in the scriptures that we live by what God has said rather than what we see with our natural eyes, 2 Corinthians 5:7. Even when it appears that God isn't answering, the scriptures written by the One Who cannot lie speak the truth. Esther's story shows that beautifully. God Whose voice is never actually heard as it is in the prophecies, is at work behind the scenes. Seen clearly after the story is finished, but not announced as it was happening.

Yet, we all understand the earthly disappointment we feel when God's answer looks so contrary to what we had pictured. Because of that, surely, we can deal with one another with tenderness when they express the sadness that results from prayer that wasn't answered by the Lord in the hoped-for way. We can tenderly and in God's timing help them to continue to pray because for one thing, God's answer might be vastly different the next time we bring our request to Him, but there is even more. We come in prayer to the One Who understands the pain of living in this fallen world. When Jesus lived here, He was not insulated from pain, rejection or disappointment. Being fully man and God, He experienced the hurts of this world. Satan will tell us to stop coming to God because we can't understand the ways He sometimes answers prayers; however, Jesus would say to keep coming because He understands us. To be heard by One Who loves and has sympathy for us. That is sweeter than being able to figure out all that God is doing.

Another reason Martha gives for not calling that number is that she should automaticallyget whatever is due her. She shouldn't have to go through the trouble of checking out what might be new. Sometimes we or others believe that God will do what God will do. No need to ask. After all, we know that He knows our needs, Matthew 6:8. Yet, it is truly a wondrous thing that the Creator/Redeemer wants to know what is on our hearts and what our desires are. He wants us to ask Him for what we need, Matthew 7:7-8. Not to inform Him but as a part of a loving growing relationship that He desires with us. Tucked away in James 4:2 there is another interesting thought about asking God. There are some things we won't receive unless we ask the Lord. No, God's sovereign will is not dependent upon our asking, but there are others things that surely are. What a good reason not to stop praying. God truly wants to do even more than we ask or think. Let's keep asking and encourage other believers to do the same. God's mercies are new each morning, and they might look different the next time we speak to Him in prayer.

Still another reason Martha cites for not calling that number is that she called last year. One and done! In our scripture readings from Luke 11 and Luke 18, we are reminded to continue in prayer. Yes, there are mysteries about prayer we don't understand, but on these two occasions, Jesus says to persist in talking with Him.

We do not have a reluctant God like the judge in Luke 18. He is not stingy with His blessings and bothered like both the judge and friend in Luke and 11 are. We are reminded in Proverbs 15:8 that our prayers are a delight to Him. I love that truth because let's face it. Even people who truly love us aren't always delighted to hear us when we speak to them. Sometimes, they remind us that we have already made a certain point, and we must admit that we have said that to them too.

How precious it is that we are invited to come to the Lord even if we have come many times. I have to confess that even with these reminders that came out of Martha's whining, I still might mute her, but I'm thankful that God doesn't mute me.

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