The penny plinked into the cup and I walked away.
It was such a simple thing. The penny pressed into the palm of my hand and then a quick release, a letting go, and I was done.
Before my penny cup, I thought that I was just persevering in prayer like Jesus told His disciples to do in Luke 18.
There was the widow who came before the unfair judge day after day to demand justice, and finally he gave in because he was annoyed and tired of hearing her complain about it.
There was the neighbor awakened in the middle of the night by obnoxious and persistent knocking at his front door. He finally opened up the door and stood there in his pajamas listening to his neighbor’s plight—an unexpected guest, no bread in the house, could he share? Yes! Take it! Take anything as long as you stop that knocking, knocking, knocking so I can get some sleep already.
So, Jesus tells us, if an unrighteous judge and a sleep-deprived neighbor gave into requests just because of tenacity, wouldn’t God who loves us respond when we pray and pray and pray and don’t give up praying?
Don’t stop praying. Even when you’re weary and exhausted and hopeless and think it doesn’t do a bit of good, keep pushing and pushing on in prayer.
But my idea of persevering in prayer wasn’t really prayer any more. It was more like fretting in front of God’s throne and worrying about a problem before a divine audience.
All night long, I mentally paced in prayer: Lord, here’s my problem and here’s what I need You to do to fix it.
I plead and argued and orated and then when I’d run out of things to say, I started all over again.
Hour after hour ticked by on my bedside clock and still I continued.
God loves when we pray. We can bring anything and everything to Him in prayer and He never tires of hearing us and never turns us away.
But I never released my need to Him. I was talking at Him without ever letting go or pausing for even a second to listen or be still.
I was wallowing in anxiety and putting a holy ‘stamp of approval’ on it by calling it prayer.
Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for (1 JOhn 5:14-15 HCSB).
I was praying as if He couldn’t hear me.
….as if my will mattered more than His will.
….as if only my solution to the problem was acceptable.
….as if He wasn’t sovereign or compassionate—wasn’t able or didn’t care to rescue me.
… as if He was against me instead of for me.
It was a prayer of unbelief.
Then, I read the idea in a discipleship magazine: a penny cup.
It’s not the cup that mattered or even the penny. Writing a prayer on a slip of paper and slipping it into a prayer box would do just as well.
What matters is a physical reminder to release my white-knuckled grip on my problem and give it over to the God who loves me so.
Every time I found a wayward penny on a dresser or on the floor, I picked it up and prayed with a quick whisper, “Lord, please take care of this need. I trust You to deliver me.” Then I released the prayer to Him as I dropped the coin into my penny cup.
I didn’t tell Him how to fix the problem. I didn’t wrestle with Him for hours every night over the need.
I prayed day in and day out (you’d be surprised how many pennies you find when they become part of your prayer life), but always I gave the problem to Him instead of holding onto it myself.
When the penny cup filled to the brim, I poured out the coins and started again. For years, I prayed about this one issue, giving it over to God one…..penny….. at….. a….. time.
For the first time, I really prayed. I didn’t fret and argue and run endless circles of desperate pleading around God.
I persisted in prayer by expressing my need while leaving the solution in His hands.
And God rescued me. Not in the way I expected. Not in the timing I expected. Not without hardship and hurting or obedience or faith in the hard places. But the deliverance was miraculous and beautiful and perfect in the way only God’s deliverance can be.
Originally published 02/11/2015