Covid-19 Pandemic: Taking the Problem Seriously

Is the Covid-19 crisis real or a scam? What if China’s information has been inaccurate? What if it turns out that Covid-19 kills fewer people than the flu this year and we end up ruining our economy trying to self-isolate? What if the virus is part of biological warfare? What if this has all been planned by the Illuminati in order for them to take over the world? What if? What if? What if?

Stats on Coronavirus Spread as of 1:13 yesterday afternoon

Today I just want to put in a plea for people to take this problem seriously regardless of the “What ifs.” The aged mother of one of my friends—after using the same spoon as 300 other senior citizens had used to add mustard to her hotdog at a big picnic in her Arizona community last week—assured my friend that she wasn’t attending any big events and was practicing social distancing. Apparently, this dear lady assumed that a “large” gathering was a major symphony or concert—not just a group of her cronies!

Stats on Coronavirus Spread as of 10:13 am this morning

When I wrote last week on how to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic, I got some strong criticism from a few (senior citizen) readers who thought the whole thing was being blown out of proportion and that Covid-19 isn’t as lethal as the flu. However, as we follow the steep curve in the number of confirmed cases, it is becoming more clear that this is not just a passing fancy. It is estimated that Covid-19 is 3-4 times more contagious as flu, with a higher percentage of deaths overall, and a profoundly higher death rate among the aged and already infirm.

For whatever reasons, this is a pandemic unlike anything I’ve experienced in my 70 years. I believe it will be every bit as defining for the Gen Z’ers as 9//11 was to the Millennials or Kennedy’s assassination was to the Baby Boomers. In California, where my eldest son lives, everything is shut down and no one is supposed to go out except for food or medications. In Belgium, where my second son lives, schools and restaurants are all closed down and the unofficial restrictions are the same as California’s, although people are still allowed to go to work. Similar restrictions are in place for my kids who live in New York, Chicago, Detroit, and now even in Grand Rapids. Police are starting to question people who are out and about in Italy, where some of the hospitals are at 200% capacity.

Why shut down? Why go into isolation? That’s a valid question. If 90% of the young and healthy people will be asymptomatic or have symptoms no more challenging than a bad flu, then why shut down our entire country and risk the collapse of our economy? Why not let the young and healthy continue to work (with care)? Why not just restrict the activities of the old and infirm to protect them? If I were the president, maybe that’s what I would choose, thinking that protecting the livelihood of the young and financially unstable is a higher priority than protecting the elderly at any rate. BUT, I am not the president, and therefore it’s my job to respect our leadership and pray for them to make wise decisions.

What’s the theory behind social distancing? The hope is to slow down the spread of Covid-19, because we don’t have vaccines yet, and our hospitals aren’t equipped with enough oxygen and respiratory equipment to handle too many cases at once. Yes, most of us are likely to be exposed at some point, but if we can contain the virus (not too likely in the “land of the free”) or even slow down the spread of this very contagious illness, then potentially we will be able to save thousands or possibly millions of lives. It’s true that Covid-19 manifests with only mild symptoms in children and healthy adults, but it can be a killer for older adults, particularly if they have underlying medical conditions— respiratory problems, diabetes, etc.

So, my first plea is for you to take this problem seriously, especially if you are a senior citizen or have compromised health. My husband and sons are unilaterally working remotely (except for the ones in healthcare); all my grandchildren are home due to schools being closed. If you’re not concerned for yourself, please be concerned for the sake of those around you! This is a worldwide problem that will require worldwide participation to solve.

Want to be part of the solution? Beyond social distancing, may I suggest praying? You may have memorized this verse so long ago that it almost seems passe, but it’s just as true today as it was 3,000 years ago when God appeared to Solomon: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Prayer Needs for our World:
* For youngsters to feel secure and have their needs met during this unsettling time
* For the vast majority of young adults and those with no jobs or low-paying jobs who don’t have the financial resources to withstand losing their jobs for weeks or months
* For those who are experiencing dire illness, those who are caring for the ill, and those who are grieving the loss of loved ones
* For those who are in positions of authority—from national leaders to leaders in each home—for the ability to make wise decisions that will protect the lives and welfare of all people around the world
* For people everywhere to repent and turn to God, asking Him for salvation and deliverance

Blessings for St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I prepared this post before Covid-19 took the world by storm and I was thinking I’d be in Texas, so it may seem a little too lighthearted for the mood of our world, but then it occurred to me that we all we could all use a little cheer. Also, I’ve been sick with a wretched cold/flu (thankfully, probably not Covid-19), so I don’t have quite the umph to prepare a serious blog, although my hope is to begin sharing soon some ideas for what to do while we’re all confined. However, today I am praying over each of you who reads this some of these sweet blessings!

lll

“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Coronavirus: Are You Prepared?

Are you ready for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that’s sweeping the world? Instead of enjoying a trip to San Antonio this morning for a medical meeting (which got canceled), my husband—as the chief medical officer of a local hospital— is acutely involved in preparing to meet the crisis which has come to Michigan. Two days ago (March 10, 2020) there were no confirmed cases in Michigan, although there were 760 cases confirmed in U.S. However, by 6:33 am on March 11, there were 1,039 confirmed cases throughout America and 119,476 world wide with 4,291 deaths. As of today, March 12th, there are 1,323 confirmed cases throughout America and 127,863 worldwide with 4,718 deaths. If you do the math, it’s shocking how fast this is traveling.

We also now have confirmed cases in Michigan. The schools have shut down in Grand Rapids, as they are where my kids live in California, Chicago, and New York. Belgium (where one of my sons lives) was leading the pack for new cases in Europe yesterday. I am amazed to read of people not taking this seriously. Come on, guys! Where’s your Boy Scout spirit? Semper paratus. Better safe than sorry! Don’t panic, but don’t ignore taking wise precautions, either, please!

Coronavirus is everywhere in the news, so this post may be too late to be particularly helpful, but just in case you haven’t done a lot of research yet, here’s the best up-to-the-moment coverage I have gleaned:

What are the symptoms of a COVID-19 (coronavirus) infection? Most commonly, it presents like flu and can include fever, tiredness and a dry cough, although other symptoms, such as achiness, pain, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea are all possible. According to Dr. Martha Blum, MD PhD: “The most common presentation was one week prodrome of myaglias, malaise, cough, low grade fevers gradually leading to more severe trouble breathing in the second week of illness. It is an average of 8 days to development of dyspnea and average 9 days to onset of pneumonia/pneumonitis. It is not like Influenza, which has a classically sudden onset. Fever was not very prominent in several cases.”

How long does it take to determine if someone has COVID-19? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “symptoms may appear anywhere between two to 14 days after exposure, with the average patient seeing onset at around five days.”

What should you do if you suspect you may be developing a COVID-19 infection ? Call (don’t visit) your doctor or your local health department. They can ask appropriate questions to determine whether on not you need to be tested. Obviously, you should not GO to the doctor’s office or health department directly, lest you expose others, but these health care locations can tell you where you would need to go for testing.

What can we do to prepare? Make sure all your immunizations are up to date. It’s still not too late to get your flu shot or a pneumonia vaccine if you are in the right age and risk group. Check with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for specific guidelines (and other pertinent information concerning COVID-19): https://www.cdc.gov/

Beyond being properly immunized, all the sites I’ve studied say the #1. best advice is easy: limit your exposure as best you can and wash your hands with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds often and specifically after you’ve had contact with people in public places. Do NOT touch your face with your hands until after you’ve washed your hands carefully. If you have hand sanitizer as a second step (AFTER washing), that’s a plus, but most stores are out of hand sanitizer. You can also use rubbing alcohol as a disinfectant. I was able to find some this morning. Have a 14-30-day supply of food and medications on hand. I liked this list from USA Today (March 10, 2020 issue, and I quote):

Food. Fresh fruits and vegetables will likely spoil over 14 days, so canned foods that have a long storage life and need little or no cooking are recommended. Meat products, fish or beans, soups, broths and stews, fruits and fruit juices, vegetables, canned (or powdered) milk, are among good supply choices recommended by the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Disaster Education Network.

Frozen foods are an option, too. Other recommended foods are peanut butter, jelly, crackers, nuts, trail mix, dried fruits, granola bars, bouillon cubes, and staples like sugar, salt, pepper. (Keep in mind you may need to include some special foods for babies and family members on special diets, as well as pet foods.)

Water and liquids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests you have plenty of fluids on hand, such as bottled water and supply of fluids with electrolytes, such as Pedialyte or Gatorade. cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/drinking/creating-storing-emergency-water-supply.html(opens in a new tab)

Medicine. You will want to have a 14-day supply of any prescription medications for those in your home. You may also want over-the-counter pain relievers, antacids, cough and cold medicines, and vitamins.

Supplies. Many homes already have a 14-day supply of most daily items on hand. But make sure you have toothpaste, toilet paper, feminine supplies, diapers, laundry detergent and disinfectant.

Other items. Perhaps have some board games, cards, toys books, magazines and other fun items to keep the family occupied.

Okay, back to my editorializing: To keep abreast of what’s happening minute by minute around the world and in the U.S., you can access the Johns Hopkin Dashboard here:

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

To track what’s happening in Michigan, here’s a link:

https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/

In case you think everybody’s overreacting, here’s a link that explains the importance of insulating ourselves and our communities as well as we possibly can. It can make a huge difference in the number of cases and the outcomes:

Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now

Below is a potpourri of various recommendations for immunizations, graphs and charts, a brief history of coronavirus, and other pertinent information that I’ve copy-and-pasted from websites, mostly the CDC.

When you are 65 years old, please get the PCV-13 first. Then you should get the Pneumovax 6-12 months afterwards. But if you’ve already had your Pneumovax, then get your PCV-13 one year later. If you are younger than 65, you might need a pneumonia vaccine if you have special conditions. Read more at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/pneumo/public/index.html for more information

Shingles: https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/vaccination.html “Two shingles vaccines are licensed and recommended in the United States. Zoster vaccine live (ZVL, Zostavax) has been used since 2006, and recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix), has been used since 2017, and is recommended as the preferred shingles vaccine.” My vaccine made both my sister and me quite ill briefly, and it does have transiet flu-like side effects for more than half the population, so choose a day when you don’t have much scheduled. We chose a Friday afternoon with a clear weekend.

Interim guidance is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. As more is learned about this virus and the outbreak, CDC will rapidly incorporate new knowledge into guidance for action.

For historical perspective from the CDC: “An outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) began in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019, and has spread throughout China and to 31 other countries and territories, including the United States (1). As of February 23, 2020, there were 76,936 reported cases in mainland China and 1,875 cases in locations outside mainland China (1). There have been 2,462 associated deaths worldwide; no deaths have been reported in the United States. Fourteen cases have been diagnosed in the United States, and an additional 39 cases have occurred among repatriated persons from high-risk settings, for a current total of 53 cases within the United States. This report summarizes the aggressive measures (2,3) that CDC, state and local health departments, multiple other federal agencies, and other partners are implementing to slow and try to contain transmission of COVID-19 in the United States. These measures require the identification of cases and contacts of persons with COVID-19 in the United States and the recommended assessment, monitoring, and care of travelers arriving from areas with substantial COVID-19 transmission. Although these measures might not prevent widespread transmission of the virus in the United States, they are being implemented to 1) slow the spread of illness; 2) provide time to better prepare state and local health departments, health care systems, businesses, educational organizations, and the general public in the event that widespread transmission occurs; and 3) better characterize COVID-19 to guide public health recommendations and the development and deployment of medical countermeasures, including diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. U.S. public health authorities are monitoring the situation closely, and CDC is coordinating efforts with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other global partners. Interim guidance is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. As more is learned about this novel virus and this outbreak, CDC will rapidly incorporate new knowledge into guidance for action by CDC, state and local health departments, health care providers, and communities.

“Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 appears to occur mainly by respiratory transmission. How easily the virus is transmitted between persons is currently unclear. Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath (4). Based on the incubation period of illness for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronaviruses, as well as observational data from reports of travel-related COVID-19, CDC estimates that symptoms of COVID-19 occur within 2–14 days after exposure. Preliminary data suggest that older adults and persons with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems might be at greater risk for severe illness from this virus (5).

Information for travelers: CDC.gov/Travel

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html

“There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

“There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.”

Why is it so much more dangerous for elderly people? According to Bruce Aylward (who leads the World Health Organization’s infectious disease response team), “These people are dying of an inflammatory process in their lungs. It’s not an infectious process, like a bacterial or viral infection. It’s inflammatory, like we see with SARS. We’re not sure of the mechanism. We do know the proportion of people who die who had cancer was half compared to hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Diabetes is a little bit lower than those two, and cancer lower again.

Italy is currently locked down. In China, the cases are diminishing. In America, the confirmed cases are growing rapidly!

After all is said and done, I would like to remind people to prepare, but not panic! Prepare, watch, and pray: “The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord ” (Proverbs 21:31). Our world, our times, and our lives are ultimately in the hands of the One who has created us. As Solomon taught, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). I am totally convinced that this current plague is intended by God for our good, to bring us all to the foot of the cross, where we can find rest and peace for our souls—and eternal life through faith in Christ—despite the present crisis. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2).

Please feel free to write a response, ask any questions, or request me to pray for you specifically.

Did You Know There’s an Underground Railroad TODAY?!

Yes, former CIA member, Tim Ballard, has founded Operation Underground Railroad to combat the fastest growing “enterprise” (criminal business) in the world: human trafficking. There are about 30 million people being trafficked worldwide in 2020, 8 million of whom are children, largely used for the sex industry or for harvesting organs. Tim’s voice message to the world? “There’s slavery, and it’s alive. It’s terrifying to talk about this. It takes guts to listen to this interview [link below] and guts to engage. You think you would have been an abolitionist. Now is your chance! There are more people enslaved today than ever before.”

Once I started listening to the interview on the Candace Owens Show, I couldn’t stop! I’m going to share a few of his most cogent points, but if you think slavery is wrong and should be eradicated, please take time to listen to the discussion. A few “must knows;”

*The U.S. is the greatest problem, because our nation is the world’s largest consumer of trafficking services. This is shocking and horrifying. No wonder we are accused by some as being “the Great Satan.” We need to repent as a nation and pray for an end to this grotesque immorality.

*There’s been a 5000% increase in child rape videos in the past few years [we’re talking 5-7 year-olds, not teens].

*Should we legalize prostitution? According to Ballard, no, but we should not be prosecuting prostitutes. Rather, we should be prosecuting pimps. If we legalize prostitution, children will be even more terribly abused. We must protect children. (Listen to his explanation; it makes sense.)

*Should there be a “wall” of protection between Mexico and the U.S. “YES!” Ballard cited the case of one young woman they rescued who was kidnapped and taken through the dessert of Mexico into the U.S. She estimated that she had been raped 60,000 times before being freed and said if there had been any opportunity at a border, she would have cried out for help. (Editorial note from me: Victims are frightened for their lives in most cases if they’re not too drugged.)

*What can we do? In Michigan, there is MAP (“Michigan Abolition Project”). If you want to learn more or help support those who are on the front lines, I can now recommend two international organizations:

Operation Underground Railroad is working in 25 states within America and in 22 countries around the world. Their website is:

http://ourrescue.org/

The Nazarene Fund, which also works alongside OUR, can be accessed here: https://thenazarenefund.org/

If you have time to listen to the interview between Candace Owens and Tim Ballard, it can be found here:

https://www.prageru.com/video/the-candace-owens-show-tim-ballard/?fbclid=IwAR3PYQ9ZumPpsvmRJycZxw6IdptvhZftZTLPquXxoImHWSzbspXqhvpbAnQ

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23).

Harriet and Slavery . . . Past and Present

It’s terrifying to face the evils of society. Incredibly painful. Gut-wrenching. We’d rather not even think about it.

Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman

However, the battle between good and evil rages whether or not we’re willing to acknowledge it or engage in the battle.

Leslie Odom Jr. as Abolitionist William Still

Blind eyes and hard hearts allowed the horrors of the death camps where millions of Jews were exterminated during World War 2. Deaf ears and love of comfort allowed the terrors of black slavery that existed before the Civil War in the U.S.

Harriet was helped by Quakers

We like to think that we’d all be abolitionists if we’d lived during the 1800’s . . . but would we?

Harriet is a powerful look into the lives and times of slavery in pre-Civil War America, and I wish everyone would take the time to watch it, even if it makes us wince and lose some sleep.

Harriet Tubman’s Last Words

Harriet recounts the true story of one of America’s bravest women: Harriet Tubman. She was born around 1822 as a slave; she died in 1913 at about age 91 and was an amazing example of courage, faith, self-sacrifice, and compassion.

As a small child, Harriet was beaten every time the white baby she was tending would cry. She recalled being beaten 5 times before breakfast one morning!

Photo of the notice run in the newspaper offering a $100 reward for the capture of “Minty” (Harriet) and her brothers after they escaped in 1849. (Wiki)

Much of her life as portrayed in the 2019 story is consistent with history (with the usual literary license and compacting of some historical events).

It is true that Harriet rescued 70 slaves in 13 expeditions and advised many more.

She usually left on Saturday evenings during winter to avoid detection, because notices about runaway slaves wouldn’t be printed until Monday, and plantation owners didn’t like going outside in the cold to search for themselves.

Harriet experienced visions directing her, which she attributed to God. She was deeply Christian. She really did pray for God to kill her evil master, who died suddenly a week later! (She later expressed ambivalence about her prayer after her cruel master died.)

Nicknamed “Moses” for her God-inspired ability to lead people to freedom, Harriet never lost a single soul: “I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say – I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger” (Wiki).

During the Civil War, Harriet worked as a nurse and made pies and rootbeer in the evenings to sell so she could support herself.

She also worked as a spy and map maker, and she was one of few women in American history to ever lead an armed assault during war—along the Combahee River, where 750 slaves were freed.

“Unidentified photographer, A large albumen photograph of Harriet Tubman by Tabby Studios in Auburn, NY. Enlarged from an older print.” Public Domain (Wiki)

As an elderly woman, Harriet needed surgery to relieve pain from the childhood head injury she had received, but instead of using anesthesia, she chose to bite down on a bullet, as she’d seen Civil War soldiers do while having their limbs amputated! She was one tough lady!

In honoring Harriet Tubman when her biography was written, the famous abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, wrote this: “The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day – you in the night. … The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown – of sacred memory – I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have.”

If you watch Harriet and lose sleep the way I have, I would like to encourage you to start praying about what you might be able to do to help stop slavery, because slavery is not just an artifact of history. Slavery is very much an alive and evil ongoing issue. In fact, human trafficking is the fastest growing “enterprise” in the world today. Thursday I want to share some information about present day slavery and one avenue for helping fight it.

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (70): 7-Eleven Knocking

7-Eleven stores are not only popular in America, where there are thousands of these little convenience stores attached to gas stations, but there are now more 68,000 “7-Eleven” stores in seventeen different countries around the world! The stores first used the name 7-Eleven because they were open between 7:00 am -11:00 pm, but now most locations provide 24-hour access to food, gasoline, and various small necessities you might discover a need for in the middle of the night when other stores aren’t open.

In Matthew 7 and Luke 11 (7-Eleven), Jesus gives three invitations with promises attached: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” As I pondered Jesus’s teaching, I couldn’t help but notice the 7-Eleven theme—on several counts! First, the teaching is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 7-Eleven (which makes it easy to remember)! 🙂 Second, Jesus’s seemingly carte blanche statement is so much more extravagant than what any 7-Eleven store could possibly hope to provide! Third, these promises follow Jesus’s teaching on prayer and are couched between two parables in Luke’s gospel, the first of which is a story about a man needing something in the middle of the night:

Jesus Knocking at the Door of our Heart by Warner Sallman (1892-1968)

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Luke 11:5-10).

Jesus Knocking at the Door. German Steel engraving

Back in the time of Christ, you couldn’t just head to your local 7-Eleven store in the middle of the night if you needed something, so you had to bother your closest neighbor instead. As Jesus explains, even your favorite friend is unlikely to be thrilled if you show up on his doorstep at midnight looking for food. However, if you persist (and he doesn’t heave a rock out his window to drive you off 🙂 )—since he really is your friend—he will get up and give you what you need. He won’t actually throw stones, he will give you bread. If you ask for a fish, he’ll check out his fridge and share his leftover fish’n’chips. He won’t fish around in the dark corners of his house looking for a spare snake or scorpion to pawn off on you instead. True? Yes! Tired and cranky and selfish as we are, most of us will come to the aid of those we love if they ask.

Jesus starts by recommending perseverance in making a clamor until we get the help we need, and he ends by assuring us that our heavenly Father is a kinder, more compassionate, more capable, and more generous giver than the best earthly father. “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13).

The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt. 1851-56.
Manchester Art Gallery.

There are two seemingly insignificant codicils at the end of Jesus’s statement that are actually immeasurably important. The first is a reminder that the best gifts are spiritual, and the second is that we must ask! If aren’t humble enough to ask, at some point, God may withhold His graces. Why? Because God loves us too much to continue showering us with his daily benefits while we blindly refuse to recognize his bounty for what it is—love gifts intended to draw us to Himself! God wants us to seek for him like we would search for hidden treasure, and if we will, He promises that He will reveal himself to us! But, if we refuse to acknowledge His existence or obey the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit, at some point He may withdraw such that we no longer recognize him for the great and wonderful God that He is! Why? Because he is better than buried treasure, and He doesn’t want us to continue callously through life without recognizing him as the source of all goodness. God wants us to knock, and knock, and knock until He answers. Why? Because He wants us to trust Him. To love Him. To wait on Him. To know that He is good, even when things are going wrong and we’re in great pain. Can you believe this? Are you willing to ask?

The second point that’s probably overlooked (at least, I’ve tended to over the years) is that God offers to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. What’s that? Who’s He? Why do we need the Holy Spirit? God gives us the Holy Spirit, but it is through the ministry of the Holy Spirit that we are actually born again and receive eternal life. It is through the Holy Spirit that we receive all spiritual blessings and graces! Blessed Holy Comforter and Guide! The One who seals us and insures our safe delivery to heaven! Don’t miss out! There’s something greater than even our need for daily bread, health, and security!

One last thought . . . but perhaps the most touching of all to me. In Revelation 3:20 we see Jesus reaching out to us too, knocking patiently at the door of our hearts: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:17-22). Will you ask? Will you seek? Will you knock? Will you open the door?

Texts for today’s meditation: Matthew 7:7-11 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Also: Luke 11:5-13, as quoted above.

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (68): When Can We Ask and Actually Expect to Receive Something From God?

Last Sunday night was the Super Bowl, and there was some playful bantering about which team was going to win based on the prayers of various people. Someone (not even a Christian by profession) teased that the 49ers lost because there are too many atheists in the Bay Area and more praying Christians backing the Kansas City Chiefs.

These were all lighthearted comments, but seriously, Jesus taught in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it shall be given you.” Is that a carte blanche offer from Christ to ask whatever we want, for whatever reason we want, and expect God to be like a genie popping out of a lantern, ready to grant us our every wish?

Christ in Gethsemane by Heinrich Hofmann, 1886 (Public Domain)

In meditating my way through the 235 times the word “ask” is used in the Bible this week, I’ve come up with a few ideas that might help as we try to discern what we should (or should not) ask God to give us. I’ll use the format of asking questions and giving answers based on the scripture.*

#1. Does God have the power to give us that for which we ask? For sure! In Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus, he asks that all might “know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:19-20). God is capable of doing above and beyond what we can even think to ask, although notice that the goal is for us to know the love of God and experience his fullness and power in our lives.

#2. Are there conditions God puts on our being able to receive help? Yes again! What are they?

  • Faith: This is the first condition. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6). “If ye have faith, and doubt not . . . ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21-22). “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).** (If you struggle with faith, see note at end.)
  • The request must be consistent with God’s will:And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us” (1 John 5:14). I have dear friends whose daughter is in prison today for failing to take her sick child to the doctor for treatment, believing God would heal the child supernaturally. Even Jesus in the garden, prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done(Luke 22:42). God gives us resources as part of his answer to our prayers, and it’s our responsibility to do all we can to accomplish whatever we need.
  • We must be abiding in God and keeping his commandments: “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22).

#3. What are some explained motives behind God answering our prayers?

  • So our heavenly Father will be glorified as the true God and known through His Son, Jesus: “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.15 If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:12-15).
  • To increase our joy:Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24; answered prayer increases our faith and joy).
Kayla Mueller

#4. What are some examples of things that can be asked for (and received) in the Bible?

  • Life: “He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him” (Psalm 21:4).
  • Wisdom: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
  • The right path for our pilgrimage on earth: “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).
  • God’s kingdom to come to earth and his will to be done on earth: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
  • Provisions necessary for our survival on earth: “Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field” (Zechariah 10:1). However, as we see from the life of Christ, sometimes God allows our life to be forfeited for the sake of loving others, as in the case of Kayla Mueller, the devout Christian mentioned in last Tuesday’s State of the Union Address by Donald Trump. Kayla was abducted after leaving a Doctors Without Borders facility that aided injured Syrians. She was murdered 18 months later after great suffering, despite thousands praying for her release. Nevertheless, God invites us to pray for our daily bread: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
  • Protection and deliverance from evil: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). Christians are martyred for their faith every day around the world—dozens daily and as many as an estimated quarter of a billion since Christ died for us 2,000 years ago. Still, we are taught to pray for safety and deliverance, so let’s continue!
  • Forgiveness for our sins: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

#5. What hinders our prayers from being answered?

  • If we are living in disobedience to God: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
  • Asking for sinful requests: “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:2-3).

#6. What can I do if I want God to answer my prayers but feel like He’s not listening?

  • If you are already a believer, confess all known sin and ask God to purify your heart: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
  • If you are not already a believer, then repent of your sins and become a child of God by faith in Christ:Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
  • If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
  • Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).
  • Ask others to join in praying with you: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
  • If you believe your prayer is worthy, continue praying until you receive a definitive answer, which brings us full circle from the command of Christ we’re studying today. Jesus tells us to persevere in prayer, knowing that our heavenly Father loves us and will give us good gifts if we ask.

The texts for today’s meditation remind us of this: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Matthew 7:7-11. Also: “And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:5-13).

*All emphases above are mine, not in the KJV, from which I’m quoting.

**Side note: If you don’t have faith but would like faith, ask God to increase your faith. As the bereft father prayed in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is one of the good gifts we can ask God to give us, and he promises that he will if we seek for him with all our hearts! (see Jeremiah 29:13).