Should I Pray or Cook?

"Would you pray for me, Aletha?" pleaded a friend on the phone. "I have been sick for several days, and my pain is unbearable." Remembering her previous disinterest in God, I readily consented to pray for her. It seemed to be providential to receive such a phone call on the day I had set aside for fasting and prayer.

After some time in prayer, the thought came, "Why not fix a meal for her family?" I thought of a casserole to prepare and realized I had all the ingredients in the kitchen. But I ignored the suggestion and continued to pray. What could be better than praying? Yet, despite my persistence, I somehow did not feel that my day of fasting and prayer had been profitable.

The next day my sick friend said, "My husband wasn't very happy about having to fix supper last night."

When I later read Isaiah 58, I understood more clearly why my day of fasting and prayer had brought no victory. "Is not this the kind of fast I have chosen?...Is it not to share your food with the hungry?"

If they obeyed, God promised, "Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: 'Here am I'" (vs. 9).

If I had been attentive to the Holy Spirit or if I had been more familiar with Isaiah 58, my fasting would have been coupled with His message of love. I hindered God by praying my way.

This occurred many years ago but continues to be a lesson to me of the importance of listening to the Spirit. Nothing is a substitute for obedience--not even prayer combined with fasting.

Thank You for using my mistakes to teach me, and thank You that Your mercies are new every morning.

"To obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22).