A casino is an interesting place to learn about prayer. Walking around in the twilight darkness, you see basically three types of players. First, are the drifters. These folks drift from machine to machine, watching others play until they see multiple players have tried the same machine with no luck. Then they move in. They are looking for the quick, easy score with the least investment. They figure, after all that play, it will pay off big for them. Next, you’ll find the vacillators. These are the ones that the drifters follow most frequently. They will play on one machine for a short period of time, then move on to another, hoping that the other machine will pay out bigger and more often. Finally, you have the homesteaders. These rugged individuals sit down in front of one machine and play until they get tired. If they lose, they keep putting in more. They are not going to give up until they hit the jackpot. They may lose all they have, but they will never give up.
In the old days, before the electronic slot machine, a player would put in the coins he wanted to bet and pull the handle. He would watch the tumblers spin in unison and stop, one by one, bells would ring and lights would flash when a jackpot was won. Coins would come spitting out into the tray at the bottom. Instant gratification. He could keep playing, or place his winnings in paper buckets and take them to the cashier. Or, he would watch the tumblers spin in unison and stop, one by one, and nothing happened. He would either drift, vacillate, or homestead, depending on his personal inclination. Now, most of the machines are electronic, with few, or no, coins involved, no handle action and no waterfall of coins on payout. The machine tells him how many coins he’s won and, when he’s ready to leave, his payout is received in a bar coded receipt which he can redeem at an ATM. He can still win or lose in much the same way he always could, but now it is more private and involves less human contact.
People tend to treat faith and prayer in much the same way as going to a casino. They are initially “in it to win it.” They enter into prayer with their pockets full of faith. They believe that all things are possible. They pray expecting. Or, do they all. As in a casino, you have three groups of pray-ers. Drifters, vacillators and homesteaders.
Prayer drifters tend to watch for the newest, or latest and greatest, prayer and faith teachers to tell them how to get immediate results. They watch, they listen to CD’s and read all sorts of books, trying to gain the knowledge of just the right formula to make God do just what they want. If that person’s ideas don’t work right away, they write them off as a fraud and move on to the next. They drift from teacher to teacher, from evangelist to faith healer. They never find a shortage of new ideas to try but never stick with anything.
Prayer vacillators find some success in their efforts. These are the ones who have “faith of a mustard seed,” but like to spread their faith seed. They will pray about this or that for a while, in earnest and fully believing that God will answer their prayers. After a while, they decide that God has heard their prayers and He is working on it, so they move on to something else. They may, or may not, come back to it again because “God’s ways are higher than our ways,” and He knows what He is doing, so they no longer press the issue. “It will all work out in God’s timing and I have more pressing issues at the moment,” they say to themselves. When God does answer vacillators, they are pleasantly surprised but caught off guard none the less. Yes, they were praying in faith believing, but history had taught them no expectancy. Their prayers had been a pacifier to calm them in times of trouble.
Prayer homesteaders, or, as they are known in Christian circles, the intercessors, are those who are in it for the long haul. They are determined to make their voice heard by God. They will not rest until they are absolutely sure that God has heard, and responded, to their plea. They rarely pray for their own benefit, but for the health, finances, safety, peace or salvation of others. They are relentless and, most usually, tireless in their efforts. They ask, they seek the scriptures for answers, they knock on heaven’s door until the doors and windows of heaven are opened wide. The answer is not always what they expected, but it is an answer, which they believe is directly from God, and that is what they were praying for, believing for and expecting, so they are rarely, if ever, disappointed by prayer. With every answer comes more faith and expectancy.
Jesus spoke about this with his disciples when discussing prayer in Matthew 7:7-11:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Also in Luke 11:5-10:
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
We all have, or will, fit into one of these three categories at some time or another. We may begin as drifters, looking for the easy way to God, but as our relationship with Him grows, we will pass through vacillation and into homesteading. As we grow in our faith, we find it is less about what God can do for us, and more about what He has done. It is more about believing, knowing and trusting. It is more about Him and less about us.
There is, unfortunately, one other group of people. These are the ones who never enter the “casino.” They never take the chance to find out what faith in God and His grace are all about. They will always be waiting for some “Prize Patrol” to show up out of the blue and change their lives for no apparent reason, even if they never entered the sweepstakes.
© Simply Consider This, 2014.