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Day 26 of Lent: Who’s giving who the runaround?

March 12, 2013

Verse for reflection: Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. Psalm 102:1-2

The runaround happens to all of us. We call a company and get tossed from department to department. We get so frustrated we resolve never to call them again.

But one day when it happened to me again, I just laughed. When the fifth person to handle my call asked whom I was trying to reach, it had become so ridiculous I just chuckled and thought about going for a record. I repeated my request. In an instant I was talking to the man I wanted.


Several of the people who handle the calls in our own organization discussed this one day at break. “I hate to get calls on line X because I never know whom to give the call to!” said one.

That helped me understand why I sometimes receive the runaround elsewhere. The inner workings of a company are often so complex that giving the wrong call to the wrong person can result in confusion and even reprimand.

It is helpful if we can be as specific as possible in explaining what we want. For instance, call one division of the office I work for and say, “I want to know about your books.” The receptionist needs to know whether you want to place an order or whether you want information on the philosophy of the organization. That can make a difference in who should receive the call.

That may be the problem with prayer, too. Sometimes we feel like we’re getting the royal runaround from God. Why aren’t our prayers answered? Or why do we seem to feel we’ve received one answer, but a week later, the door closes.

Maybe it’s because we don’t really know what we’re praying for. We haven’t defined our request, and so we’re not ready for an answer. We think we want to talk to the ordering department—when really we should back up and discuss life philosophy with the Almighty. Prayer is more about being in communication with God than giving God our want lists. We’re inclined to give God the runaround. We tell God, “Thy will be done,” and in the next breath we whisper “but not that way.”

One book I’ve studied, The Workbook of Living Prayer (Maxie Dunnam) encourages us if we’re stuck and don’t know how to pray, simply follow directions, as in the Lord’s prayer. We pray it so often that sometimes we fail to appreciate what Jesus was teaching—a pattern, for anytime.

Action: Dunnam suggests praying Matthew 6:9-13 and paraphrasing it in new words, if needed, which have more meaning for you. Perhaps that can bring you a step closer to truly getting through to the Almighty. Or God getting through to you.


Adapted from Why Didn’t I Just Raise Radishes: Finding God in the Everyday, Herald Press, 1994, p. 135, and originally for my newspaper column, Another Way, where you can sign up to get a free weekly email subscription, or daily “Stress Tips.”


From → Faith

  1. Robert Martin permalink

    Excellent stuff here! Yeah, that is how I’ve started thinking about prayer. I often pray what I know… but when I look for answers I keep my mind open for the answer that I didn’t know I needed.

  2. Thanks–and it is interesting to go back and use some of this stuff from a prior book–I forget I ever said, wrote, or thought that. So it was a good reminder for me, too. Bless you for commenting.

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