Today I was helping a friend (a homeschooling dad of 4 daughters who suffers from ALS*) make phone calls to handle financial matters and set up doctor appointments. The two hours we spent were enjoyable because Jay is one of those people to whom God has given an extra dose of funny. Sure his condition sometimes gets the better of him emotionally, but his faith in the Lord and his ability to turn the somber into laughter is something this devastating illness has not been able to touch.
When I arrived at his home, I watched his wife adroitly transfer him from his hospital bed to his wheelchair so we could get to work. We called his doctors' offices, a medical supply company, and the company that handles his employee investments. Each time I was greeted by a recorded voice directing me to punch all sorts of numbers and giving me instructions about the information needed in order to connect me to the proper person, only to have to repeat all the information over and over again. What's more, because I was acting as "Jay's mouthpiece," new permission had to be given by Jay to each person on the line for me to be okayed to speak for him. With his diminished lung capacity, this wasn't always easy.
During the many long waits on hold listening to selections from Handel and Mozart, Jay and I commented how grateful we are that we don't have to approach the Lord this way. Just think how humanistic man would improve upon Jesus' instructions in the Lord's Prayer. We figured it would go something like this:
Hello, you have reached heaven.
Your call is important to us, so stay on the line and someone will be with you shortly,
For praises, press one.
For confession, press two,
For thanksgiving, press three,
For healing, press four.
For all other petitions, please stay on the line for the next available operator.
Please be sure to have all identifying numbers ready when your call is answered.
For quality purposes, this prayer may be monitored.
Due to heavy calling volume, there will be a significant wait. Your prayer will be answered in the order received.
(Background muzak streams a synthesized version of Amazing Wait)
Someone will be with you shortly. Did you know that you can bypass this call by going to our website and leaving your question? Most inquiries are responded to within 48 hours.
(The lovely tones of Amazing Wait continue!)
Finally…a real person comes on the line, listens to your request, re-asks all the questions the first person asked, requiring new authorizations to speak on behalf of another, and back on hold you go.
Phew!!! I'm frustrated just recounting this process. My guess is that the hope on the other end of the line is that you'll hang up and forget why you called, deeming it not all that important after all, and learn to live without the answer you desired.
But, praise God, we have direct access to the throne of grace thanks to the mediating atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Not only do we have free access to the Father becasue of this Advocate who sits at His right hand, instructing us to pray in His name, but we also have a Comforter and Counselor who knows our groanings better than we do and prays on our behalf. Even when, in His good pleasure, God delays responding (thereby working patience in us), our waiting on the Lord is never in vain. He who answers our call is not some impersonal representative, ill-equipped to handle our particular need. As we're told in Isaiah 40:31,
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
[*ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. ALS is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease for which medical scientific research has yet to find a cure. ALS affects motor neurons which reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to the muscles' death.]