As children, my three siblings and I would complain to our mother that we needed a dishwasher.
Our mother would respond, “I already have four dishwashers!”
It took us a while to realize what she meant, but as we stood at the kitchen sink — one of us washing the dishes and the other three drying them — we got it. And groaned.
That wasn’t the answer we wanted to hear, but it is the answer we got. And, as I look back on it, the answer was perfectly logical. The need for a dishwasher had already been met – four times over.
When it comes to God answering prayers, our prayers may have already been answered before we even lift them.
For example, people will look at what is happening in the world and ask, “Why doesn’t God do something?” Why doesn’t God do something to feed those starving children in Africa, to intervene and stop bloodshed in the Middle East, to end the spread of AIDS and other dreaded diseases, to alleviate pain and suffering?
All good questions for God. And I can hear his answer: "I have already put things into place to end all those things."
After all, hunger can end when people who produce food are willing to look beyond their bottom line and look at human need. God provides plenty of food on this earth for everyone – if it would only be shared.
Bloodshed in the Middle East – and elsewhere – will cease when people everywhere realize that God has created everyone as equals, and there are plenty of resources for everyone – if we would only willingly share.
The spread of diseases will end when shared resources from around the world provide healthier living environments and better personal relationships.
No, I am not a communist or a socialist. I am one who hears how the gospel condemns selfish ambition, greed, hoarding wealth and cheating others. I am one who hears the gospel of Jesus Christ and the scripture reveal God’s call to care for one another – even at the expense of oneself.
You see, God has already answered our questions and our prayers. The question is, are people willing to do what is necessary to be the instruments of God’s answer?
Jesus said in a parable: “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me."
Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, "Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?" Then the King will say, "I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to me.”
The Rev. Mark Broadhead is Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview’s pastor.