It could have not been awkward, but it is.
My wife and I have returned to New York, to the church I grew up in, as visiting guest speakers because once upon a time we were missionaries so we must have stories to tell, and also because, why not? Leadership likes us. And we might as well run the youth event on Friday afternoon and into the evening. The church also runs a private school, so there’s a gymnasium and plenty to do. It’s summer time. It’ll be fun.
Early on in the event, we decide we’ll do pizza for dinner. I haven’t been here in a long time, so who do we call? There’s a new place. Try that. I make the call, but don’t really get through. My cell service is terrible. I ask my wife to call and continue hosting the event. Some time later, she gets back to me. No luck. I try again, but the gym is too noisy to hear. I get distracted and hang up. One of us will get it done.
Night falls. The youth are hungry. I’m hungry. “When’s the pizza coming?”
“I don’t know. You ordered. What did they say?”
“No, you ordered. I called a bunch of times, but kept getting cut off half-way through.”
“I called so many times I thought they’d know my voice by now. Maybe they pieced our order together. You know, they got part of what you were saying, part of what I said. They know we need pizza.”
I step outside. The parking lot is humming with people. I had forgotten what a busy church this is. So many events must be going on. I’d better stay out here for a bit and make sure the delivery guy gets to us.
Among all the cars and people, I recognize a face. It’s my friend Zack. We grew up in school together. And he’s… delivering pizza? “Zack! Hey man. How you doing?”
We barely chat, he’s gotta go. On the clock. Just here to make a delivery. We’ll catch up.
I turn around and walk back toward the gym, knowing his delivery wasn’t for us. He was carrying the brand of a different place. We should’ve ordered from his company and not tried this new place.
A mom starts to drive past me. We know each other. I wave her down and we chat briefly. Her back seat is full of groceries. “Say, could we have a box of crackers? Something to hold the teens over? Thanks.”
Some of the teens are coming out of the gym, looking for the pizza. I hand them the box of crackers.
My wife approaches. “I don’t think they’re coming.”
“We could call again,” I answer, “but by the time they get here, it’ll be nine o’clock. Besides, I can’t remember the church address right now. What was it?”
“I never knew. I was going to ask you when the time came, but I never got that far in the conversation.”
“You mean we didn’t even tell them where to bring the pizza?”
And then I realize: Zack got married, has kids, and does real estate on the other side of the country. He’s not going to pick up shifts delivering pizza in New York. This isn’t real.
When we crash-landed off the mission field into town here in Canada, we met my wife’s parents’ friends–we’ll call them Bob and Sue because three-letter names are easy. At that time, Bob and Sue owned the local pizza joint. To give us something fun to do one day they invited us and our kids to come in before a shift began, scrub our hands clean and make our own pizzas. I had fun. The kids loved it. And the pizza was delicious.
And it has stayed delicious over the years. We got to know Bob and Sue, and they knew us well enough that they could be generous at just the right time. “Hey Dave, we know it’s your kid’s birthday. Go grab your pizzas for your party on us. Don’t argue, just go.” And they’d call ahead and tell their workers that we’d be showing up to pick up a bunch of pizzas, no charge. All we’d have to do is tell the workers that we’re the friends Bob and Sue called about. “Hi, I’m Dave, friend of Bob and Sue.”
And I’ve been to that pizza place a lot now. Not just because of Bob and Sue. It’s the best pizza in town. I’ve gone enough to know the main employees by face or name. I can call and order, but I live close enough that it’s equally easy to just walk in and order the pizza we need.
Our approach to prayer can be like the situation that wasn’t real. The one that was a dream.
We try something new, but it doesn’t work out. Maybe we’re distracted, so we don’t fully communicate. Maybe we’re frustrated because we don’t feel like we’re being heard, or that we can’t hear clearly ourselves, so we hang up and try again later. Maybe we trust that someone else will get through, so we don’t need to. Maybe we would rather just skip the whole process and “put our trust” in the idea that God knows what we need, so it’ll just show up. But we don’t really have any tangible reason to believe pizza is coming because we don’t even know our own address, much less have any desire to find out what it is and communicate it.
God may even try to get through to us. He may send us a recognizable source. The friend I knew who delivered pizza–I could’ve placed an order with his company right then and there. He could have taken a message back for me. I could’ve used his phone. I could’ve gotten pizza from him. But I didn’t ask.
And the lady I knew who had a whole back seat of groceries–God sent me enough food that I could’ve made something besides pizza, a meal for everyone. But I asked for a box of crackers.
Sometimes our prayers are just like that.
I’ve been reading John 14, 15, and 16 over and over recently. I’m coming to understand that the Trinity–the three member Person-hood of God–while being distinct Persons performing distinct roles, does everything in unity.
And then Jesus pitches the concept He is in the Father, and the Father in Him, and we are to abide in Jesus, and Jesus in us, and His word in us, and the Holy Spirit in us…
For me, this makes it clearer how God changes our person. We are to live so entwined with God, that the whole vine/branches analogy makes sense. We are to be so connected to Jesus that we draw our life from Him. The Holy Spirit flows through us, producing spiritual fruit. Who we are is changed.
Pizza Prayer Person
God’s not dumb. He knows everything about us. He’s the owner of the universe.
We can call up and ask on Jesus credit.
Or we can walk right into the throne room and ask.
We get stuff for free because of God’s favor.
When we call, we can believe that we are heard. Prayer works. We get through. We can give our address and trust that it will be done.
We can also walk in, ask, and then wait until we know we have received it. We can put our hands on it. Lay hold of it. Walk out with it.
And all this is because of our relationship with God. Not magic words. We ask in Jesus’ name because we abide in Him and His word, and He abides in us. The Holy Spirit comes and dwells in us. Jesus explains that He and the Father and the Spirit are One, and that we are to be with God in relationship like that. Us in Him, He in us. We are being changed to become more like Him. We get to ask in Jesus’ name like a branch gets to call for nutrients to come up through the vine.
Now, what are we to ask for?
Good question. Wonder what God has to say about that…