Praying with a Penny Cup

penny cupThe 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.

John wrote:

 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.1 john 5

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.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Keep Praying, Keep Hoping, Keep Looking

Lunches packed for the last time. Desks cleared, backpacks cleaned out and stowed away. Field day over.  Class parties celebrated.  Awards ceremony concluded and certificates photographed.  End-of-the-year pictures taken of each daughter and compared to the photos from the first day of the school year.

And now we collapse.  We did it.  Somehow it feels like a joint accomplishment, not just theirs.  Sure, my kids worked hard. So did I.  And somehow, by God’s grace, we made it here to summer vacation.lasdayofschool

It’s only taken 15 months of prayer.  I started praying for this school year last March, praying for this teacher, this classroom, these friends, this school, these character issues, and these lessons.

And here as the school year ends, I give thanks:

Thank You, Lord, for answering my pleas for my children.  Thank You for helping them learn, being with them in all of the struggles that have sent this loving (and worried) mama to her knees.  Thank You for helping them with difficult concepts and friendship drama, bullies and mistakes on tests, report cards and forgetfulness. Thank You for these teachers You chose specially for my kids.

And I began again, just that quickly, one sentence to another, thank God for this year and then praying for next year: for classroom placements and teacher assignments, for the responsibilities of a new grade and for the friendships they’d make.

So it continues.

“Pray without ceasing….” that’s what Paul wrote (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

He meant that living prayer, that breathing in and breathing out of living life alongside God, taking in crises and handing them right on over to the Lord, receiving blessing and offering up spontaneous praise.prayer

It means no more arbitrary separations between the sacred and the secular, between the holy parts of my life where God is welcome and invited and the dusty living rooms of our hearts where we try to hide away the clutter in corners.

Having kids, though, reminds me of this, too:

Prayer is perpetual; it’s insistent and consistent.

And sometimes I’m not.  I’m driven to the throne by need and I’m pouring out pleas of desperation until the need eases a bit.  Or perhaps I just grow weary or fall back into the coziness of complacency and apathy.

I’m not praying so fervently any more. It’s more like unemotional have-to prayers, perhaps performed out of duty, perhaps totally forgotten and not prayed at all.

We pray for that intervention, that salvation, that redemption, that rescue…for us or for another….and then slowly we cease the praying.   We need the reminder to keep on keeping on, to not give up asking God for that healing and to refuse to stop praying for a loved one’s salvation.

With kids, you can’t really forget, not for long.  Time just pushes you right through from prayer need to prayer need.  I’m not even done praying over one school year before I’m on my knees for the next.

I read the Psalms and here is the reminder anew:

“But I keep praying to you, Lord, hoping this time you will show me favor.  In your unfailing love, O God, answer my prayer with your sure salvation” (Psalm 69:13 NLT).

“But I will keep on hoping for your help; I will praise you more and more” (Psalm 71:14 NLT).

“We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal” (Psalm 123:2 NLT).

Keep praying….keep hoping….keep looking.

Keep at it and when He answers, press on in more prayer.

With this fresh resolve, I flip through the pages of the neglected prayer journal.  What did I pray then….and what do I still need to pray now?

What have you neglected in prayer?  What have you given up on and long since stopped asking God for?  Who used to be on your prayer list but somehow slipped off?

It’s discipline to begin again.  And when we cease praying, which feels like the inevitable failing of us forgetful ones, we return again and resolve again to be insistent and consistent in seeking God and hoping in His deliverance.

What have you stopped praying about that you need to pray for again?  What prayers are you already praying for your children’s next school year?

Originally posted June 7, 2013

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King