One of my daughter’s favourite bible stories is the story of the Widow and the Oil, from 2 Kings 4. The story goes that there’s a woman, whose husband has died, she’s left with his debt and two sons to care for. She has no money, no food and no hope. The debt collector is pounding at the door and threatening to take her sons as slaves to cover her debts.
She reaches out in desperation to Elisha. He asks her a simple question, ‘What do you have?’
‘Just a few drops of oil,’ she replies.
‘Go to all your neighbours, borrow from them all the containers you can find. Not one, not a couple, but every single container they’ll give you. Then go back to your home, shut the doors and pour those few drops of oil into the containers you’ve been given. God will provide.’
I imagine the woman being slightly bemused, maybe frustrated, and probably still very scared as she gathered the containers, shut herself into her home with her sons and picked up her very, very light container of oil to begin to pour.
But as she poured something miraculous happened, those couple of drops of oil became a trickle, then a gush of oil. Oil that filled first one container, then two, then three and then all the containers she had gathered. And as the oil reached the top of her final container, then and only then, it ran out.
With Elisha’s instructions, she went and sold the oil. She paid the debts, and had enough to feed and care for her sons.
Her tiny, insufficient amount, by God’s grace, became more than enough to care for, protect and nurture her family.
So what does this have to do with prayer?
I don’t know how your life feels. But with a three month old baby and a two year old toddler, a life to run and bits of employed work flying around, time and energy to spend time with God, to have a ‘quiet time’, doesn’t feel abundant. Sometimes there doesn’t even seem time to breathe or think.
But through my little one’s love of this story, I am reminded, we have a God who can turn the tiny, insignificant left overs of a desperate mother into a bountiful, rich, overflowing sufficiency.
From a few drops of oil, some obedience and a little faith, that mother could provide all that was needed for her family and for herself.
From whatever space and time I can desperately claw to be with God, with some obedience and a little faith, God can provide more than I can begin to imagine.
Our God is gracious, creative and generous with what we put before him.
So if your life feels like mine right now, and you feel desperately overwhelmed by the thought of being unable to commit hours or even minutes to a quiet time with God, why not start with the drops you can find. The few seconds you can give. The gasps of exhaustion you have left in your lungs. Because you might just find that our incredible, gracious, faithful God, can bring overflowing streams of life from the little you have left.