Quick show of hands… How many of you, out there, spend time in prayer?
I’m not just talking about when you’re in the car and you nearly miss sideswiping or rear-ending someone in traffic and you shout a short, “Thank God I missed that car!”
I mean… How many of you sit down and purposefully and intentionally sit down to have a conversation with God? Maybe you have a journal where you make a list of prayer concerns… thoughts you want to bring with you as you approach the throne of grace. Maybe you have a structure… something you learned as a kid and it’s stuck with you throughout your life.
I classify myself as a Christian. A follower of Christ. And while I believe that I am saved and that I will enjoy eternal life in the presence of God when my time here is finished and that I have called Jesus my Lord and Savior, I find that I’m not always living that out, day after day.
In reality, who does, right?
My prayer life is not what I want it to be. It certainly isn’t what it should be. Do I pray? Yes… of course… When I think about it. Does that mean it’s a habit? Is it a part of my daily routine? Have I made prayer a priority in my walk with Christ? No, I’m sorry to say I haven’t.
Like I said, I do pray. When I think about it, I pray sincerely. Usually my prayers are for others. People I know. People I don’t know. People in need. People who are suffering. Rarely, however, are my prayers focused on myself.
It’s not that I don’t have needs or even, simply, wants or desires. I just tend to have this mentality that a prayer for myself is selfish when I consider that there are 7 billion people on this planet and the vast majority of them have it worse than me. I’m not thinking about the other 7 billion people though. I’m just thinking on a more local scale, more often than not, when I’m praying. And I pray for those around me. And I ignore what could be going on in my life.
What’s brought this on? Why have I suddenly become a little spiritually introspective?
Yesterday I checked my PO box and came across a letter from one of the student loans I took out back when I was an undergrad. It wasn’t from the big federal loan that I still owe money on, that’s a prayer concern all its own. No, this was from a smaller financial provider.
I won’t mention them by name, because I’ve never asked permission to write about them, so if you happen to move in the same circles that bring you into contact with these folks, don’t mention them in the comments, either. Please and thank you.
When I started out as a freshman at Bluefield College, the good people in the financial aid office suggested obtaining a loan from this small organization. They exist to provide financial support for students attending colleges with a specific denominational affiliation, like Bluefield. Part of their appeal, of course, is that their interest rates, at least at the time, were lower than what one would receive from the federal government. It’s probably still that way. Another draw is that, if one were to enter full-time denominational work with a ministry affiliated with that specifically named denomination for at least three years, that loan would then become a grant and whatever is owed would basically be forgiven.
Pretty good deal, right?
Well, you know, life happens. You graduate from that small college with that specific denominational affiliation and you go out and get whatever job you can because that’s how real life works. That job may or may not have anything to do with your degree, but at least you’re able to earn a paycheck, pay the rent, maybe even have enough to go out with your friends every now and again.
In my case, I’ve had many jobs since graduating from college. And most of them had nothing to do with that specific denominational affiliation. So throughout most of my adult life, I made payments to this small financial aid organization.
And then I started working full-time for my church. And my payments were put on hold. Fast forward to the beginning of this year, when I received my annual correspondence from that small financial aid organization, requesting further proof of current employment. My position with the church had come to a close after roughly two and a half years. Not quite the three years spelled out in the requirements from that student loan agreement, which would have resulted in the forgiveness of the rest of that debt.
I’m back to counseling in a public school. Definitely not affiliated with a specific denomination of any kind. Therefore, my assumption was that, once the powers that be in this organization reviewed my case, I would be asked to resume making payments once more. My assumption was that I would return to making payments in the same amount I was paying prior to beginning my work with the church… $250 a month.
As soon as I responded to their letter, I did the math. I worked it into my budget and, yeah, I could afford to start making those payments again. It would be tight. And it would very likely mean I wouldn’t be able to move into an apartment without a roommate like I really want. But I could do it.
And then I got that letter yesterday. It was in a regular envelope, but it was thick. When I saw the name of the organization on the return address, I sighed and decided that I really didn’t want to open it. I took it, along with the rest of my mail, out to the car and threw it in the passenger seat.
I kept looking over at it. Even before I left the post office parking lot, I kept looking at it.
Finally I picked it up and tore into the envelope. I expected to find a typed out letter along with a new agreement for me to sign, letting me know how much my monthly payments would be and that I should expect to receive a new booklet with payment coupons in the next 5-7 business days.
To my complete and utter shock, the letter informed me that my debt had been forgiven and would be considered paid in full.
Kids, this isn’t something I was praying for. As I mentioned above, my personal concerns aren’t generally foremost on my mind in those times when I do pray. But having this debt erased wasn’t even something I was asking others to pray about on my behalf. In my mind, it was a foregone conclusion that I would be resuming payments on this student loan. I was ready to make cuts to my budget and say good-bye to that extra $250 a month.
It really feels like this is a case of God providing, not only something that was completely unexpected, but something I didn’t even know I needed provision for. Maybe it means I’ll be able to afford my own apartment, after all. Maybe it means that some other expense that I’m unaware of is coming down the pipeline.
There’s a lot there. I got started writing and then I was just on a roll. I’m not sure what my point of all this was supposed to be. I already know I should pray more. I know it’s not selfish to pray for myself or my own concerns. I know God’s gonna provide, even when it’s unexpected.
Maybe I was just excited to share the story of how this student loan has been forgiven and I can only point to it being a God thing. Because I sure didn’t meet their requirements for loan forgiveness.