Counting on daily bread

Published 9:06 am Friday, February 24, 2012

Pastor’s Column

By the Rev. Andrea Myers, Associate pastor of Grace Lutheran Church

It’s often the case that we get stuck focusing on scarcity — the scarcity of money, or time, or other resources we badly want and need. It’s easy to pray for more of these things, and that’s OK. But I am convinced that even as we pray, we also need to take some time to take a closer look at what God has already done for us.

Tony Compolo is a pastor and writer from Philadelphia, and he tells a story about the time he arrived in Philadelphia on a red-eye from the West Coast to discover that there had been a mix-up with his schedule. Instead of going home to get some badly-needed sleep, his driver was taking him to preach to a women’s group at their World Day of Prayer service.

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When Tony arrived, he was quite tired and not thinking very clearly. As he struggled to keep alert, he heard the woman leading the meeting announce a prayer request from a missionary in Venezuela. She described a wonderful doctor who had given her life to serving the poor. This missionary doctor was asking for $5,000 to construct a badly-needed addition for her medical dispensary, so that she could serve all the needy who came her way. The leader of the group then asked Tony to lead them in prayer that the Lord might provide the money that was needed by their sister in Venezuela.

Blame it on the lack of sleep, but before he could catch himself, Tony answered, “No! But what I will do is take all the money I am carrying with me and put it on the altar. And I’m going to ask everyone else here to do the same. After we’ve all put the cash we’re carrying on the altar, we’ll count it. Then I’ll ask God to write out a check for the difference.”

It was a good day to pull this off, because as it happens he was only carrying two dollars and some change. The leader smiled benevolently and said, “We’ve all gotten the point, haven’t we?” But Tony said, “No, I don’t think we have! My cash is on the altar. Now it’s your turn!”

She was somewhat taken aback by his aggressive request, but she opened her wallet, pulled out $110 and slapped it down on top of his meager offering. Then Tony said, “We’re on our way!” He pointed to a woman in the front pew and said, “Now it’s your turn!” She hesitated, then smiled as she came forward to put her cash on top of the other offerings. It took more than 25 minutes to take up the offering as one by one, each woman came and placed her money on the communion table. When they had finished, and counted it, they had more than $8,000.

After all that, there wasn’t any time left for a sermon, so Tony turned to the congregation and said, “What audacity, to ask God for $5,000, when He has already provided us with more than $8,000. We should not be asking God to supply our needs. He already has!”

Tony Campolo’s story is a reminder that when we pray for daily bread, as Jesus taught us, it’s more than a prayer for God to supply our needs. We’re also offering our thanks and praise for the ways that God has already supplied our needs.