The Answer you Seek is Closer than you Think. Hint… it’s within you!
A few years ago, Park Service officials in Washington, D.C. noticed an unusual amount of wear on some of the monuments. They soon realized that excessive scrubbing to remove the bird droppings was the source of the problem. In an attempt to remedy the problem, they experimented with different cleaning methods. But nothing seemed to help.
They concluded that installing nets would keep the birds away which should reduce the need for constant cleaning. But the tourist complained because the nets were so unsightly. Finally, they asked the question, “Why do we have so many birds coming to this particular monument?”
It seemed that a large number of insects were swarming around the monument, which was attracting the birds. Thinking the right insecticide would provide a solution, they spent several months testing different formulas. To their disappointment, each one only worked for a short period of time, leaving the problem unresolved.
The mounting frustration along with the lack of a solution prompted another question, “Why do we have so many insects swarming this particular monument?” They discovered that the bright lights illuminating the memorial in the evening were attracting the insects.
Further experiments revealed that ninety percent of the insects could be eliminated by simply turning on the lights one hour later each night. Adjusting the lighting reduced the number of insects, which reduced the number of birds in the area.
The amount of bird droppings diminished significantly. In tern the need for scrubbing was reduced which also reduced the wear and tear on the monument.
The brushes, netting, and insecticides had only addressed the symptoms. The root cause was a lighting issue. A simple adjustment to the lighting impacted all the downstream effects and eventually resolved the problem completely.
So exactly what do a few bird droppings on a National Monument have in common with prayer?
In large part, it perfectly illustrates the approach many of us have towards prayer. Meaning that a lot of our prayer time is spent trying to solve problems without first having a clear understanding of the root causes.
Often, what we have concluded the problem to be is nothing more than the downstream effect of something else. Yet we frame our prayers or hopes around solving a problem, rather than pursuing root causes. And just like the Park Service workers, a lot of time is spent on things that produce little to no results.
The truth is problem solving prayers don’t solve that many problems. In fact they can actually create a higher level of frustration. Problem solving prayers lock us in to one-dimensional, linear thinking. It puts limitations on our dialogue with God. It produces a “fix it” mentality controlled by humanistic reasoning and experiential bias.
Problem solving prayers focus on symptoms without addressing root causes. In case you are wondering what this looks like from a heavenly perspective, just go to YouTube and search on “dogs chasing their tail.” Is it any wonder that so many people become weary and frustrated with prayer? At some point we all get tired of running in circles!
May I propose a different approach? What if we stop focusing on trying to solve problems when we pray? What if, instead of focusing on the symptoms, we pivot our thinking and start looking for root causes? What if we begin employing the power of a Divine Question?
Asking Divine Questions in our prayer time opens us up to receive Divine Solutions. Divine Questions elevate our perspective.
Divine Questions remove the limitations from our mind and allows us to think about people and situations the way God does. Divine Questions help us know ourselves better. They help us know God better. Mostly Divine Questions reveal the areas of life where we are not experiencing the gift of salvation and the power of the Cross.
Following are a few examples of Divine Questions:
1. Why is this person or situation stealing my peace?
This is where being gut honest with God pays big dividends. Many times we get tripped up on demanding the person or situation change. Asking this Divine Question shifts the focus to why it bothers YOU? If something is stealing your peace, maybe it’s because your peace is in something that can be stolen.
Find out what conditions you’ve place on having peace and you’ll get to the root cause of why it’s being stolen. Hint: There is only one give of peace. Peace is a person not a condition.
2. What am I putting my faith in other than God?
Some answers might include: a job, a credit score, a missed opportunity, a past mistake, another person’s decisions, your own ability or inability.
Answering this question will help you locate where you’ve misplaced your faith. Remember, your faith can only be robbed if you have put in something that can be stolen.
3. Why can’t I love this person the way God does?
It’s just so much easier to write someone off or marginalize them instead of praying about why you can’t love them. Not that they haven’t given you plenty of reasons to feel that way. Pondering this question will help you think about what you are hoping to get from the relationship.
After you answer that question, then think about what it would give you if you received what you’re hoping for. Next, ask yourself if you were ever supposed to get those things from another person (who is also looking for the same thing from another person). Maybe everyone is just looking for love in all the wrong places.
The excuses I typically use for not loving someone include: Because it means they get away with it or because they’re a pain in my backside. But mostly it’s simply because I don’t know the love and grace of God for me greater than the other person’s decisions or behavior.
4. What can I be grateful for in the midst of this challenge?
Being thankful allows us to elevate the goodness and blessing of God above the circumstance. Even as I write this blog, I am in the midst of a difficult personal challenge.
But, despite circumstances I cannot change and events I have no control over, I remain thankful. Right now, I am sitting in a nice little café eating lunch, listening to good music, and putting the finishing touches on this blog post.
Though I have no clear solution to my situation, I am grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas with you. I’m thankful that God allowed our paths to cross, that we have connected, that this blog might possibly help someone through a difficult place. And I am thankful that, no matter what happens on this earth, I have an eternal bright future because of the love and mercies of God.
But let’s get back to you… Miss Overcomer! Possibly there is a situation that has you twisted up in knots. Maybe you have been praying about a challenge but see no clear answer.
Maybe someone or something is stealing your peace. If so, maybe it’s time to elevate your thoughts and shift your focus to Divine Questions. Instead of problem-solving prayers, why not try a different approach?
If you’re not sure how to ask a Divine Question, start with this simply little prayer and then revisit the examples above.
“Heavenly Father, I don’t know how to ask a Divine Question. All I have are problem solving prayers and I’m clueless how to pray any different. But I commit my clueless understanding to you and ask that you would replace it with inspiration from your heart to mine. I want to know you more. I want to experience the gift of salvation and the power of the Cross. I want to launch out in to the deep and discover root causes with the help of your grace. I commit this coming year to you in faith. Amen