In honor of the teeny tiny bit of rain we've gotten in the last week (and in hopes of more tomorrow!), I thought it would be fun to share a story about what I learned in a parking lot in a rainstorm. Can God's "No" deepen our prayer lives? Can soggy pant legs and wet shoes be God's tools for drawing us deeper into his love? For me, the answer was yes . . .
So, if you don't want to settle for shallow "parking lot" prayers any more, read on . . .
PARKING LOT PRAYERS
Rain, like the thundering of a mighty army, pounded on my windshield and drummed over the roof of my Ford Explorer. Puddles danced along the roadside as fat droplets plunged from the sky. I shivered and turned the wipers on high. The squeak of rubber on glass shot through my nerves. I squinted and leaned forward. There! The entrance to the grocery store parking lot loomed in front of me.
I sneezed as I guided my car into the lot and between two long rows of cars. It had been a bad day already. The milk had spoiled, I’d forgotten my umbrella, and now I felt a cold coming on. And worse yet, the parking lot was full. The last thing I needed was to get soaked on my way into the store. “Oh God, please find me a parking space up close,” I prayed. “I don’t want to get all wet.”
I had scarcely finished my prayer when red taillights flashed in front of me. There, at the front of the row, a tiny VW Bug was pulling from a prime spot. “Thanks, God,” I sighed and stepped on the accelerator. But before I could reach the empty space, a pea-green pick-up zipped around the corner and into my spot. I slammed on the brakes and threw up my hands as a man in his forties jumped from the truck, pulled up his jacket’s hood, and ran toward the store. He didn’t even glance my way.
A few choice words skittered through my mind as I stepped on the gas pedal and began a slow crawl through the rows of cars. Up and down, back and forth I went, each row taking me further from the sheltered front door of Nob Hill Foods.
Eventually, I gave up and parked on the far edge of the lot. Huge droplets splashed on my glasses as I open the car door and stepped out. I hunched my shoulders and raced toward the store. By the time I got there, my coat was soaked, my shoes soggy, and my hair straggled down my forehead like tiny tributaries racing toward the sea.
As I headed up the fruit aisle, irritation surged through me. Why couldn’t God just answer my prayer? If the God of the universe couldn’t even find me simple parking space, how was I to trust him with my larger hopes and dreams? After all, it was such a small request!
After a few minutes in the store, followed by another mad dash back to my car, I arrived home wet and grumpy. Slowly, I unpacked the groceries for our evening meal - Pre-made salad, pre-cut vegetables, pre-marinated steaks, and a bottle of sparkling cider. I stared at the items - convenience items, all of them, things to make my meal preparation faster and easier.
As I put the steak in the refrigerator, it occurred to me that my recent prayers had been a lot like my groceries. They were convenience prayers - quick requests to make my life easier. As my days had grown more complicated, as the pace of life increased, I’d begun to just pray for my immediate needs and wants. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d prayed for God to make my heart more like His, or to help me to see His will in my life, or to show me what it meant to love Him more and more. Somehow, in the busyness of life, I’d forgotten the greater things of God. Had I been asking for pre-cut veggies when God had a banquet in mind?
James’ admonition struck my heart, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3, NIV). Perhaps my prayers had become too much about me and what I wanted.
In the next few minutes, with my refrigerator door half open and a cold piece of meat in my hand, God reminded me of what he offers me – not a parking spot close to the store, but place close to His heart. And that was far better than dry shoes and a coat.