The Bible is full of great books and stories. One of my all-time favorites is the Book of Tobit. We learn so much from this story: about God’s love for us, about angelic intervention, about trust, and about prayer.
I love the beginning of the book. We meet Tobit and Sarah, two good people who have met with terrible misfortune and are at the end of their coping abilities. We can learn a lot from them. The first thing to note is how very human they are. Clearly, they’ve been dealt a bad hand. And clearly, they didn’t deserve their misfortunes. They express some very real and very raw emotions of sadness and despair. Let’s face it, most of us can relate. Unfair things happen in all of our lives and it’s easy to be tempted to give up. Sarah’s pain was so deep that she contemplated hanging herself.
But the way they pray is surprising, and instructive in so many ways. After expressing their grief and heartache, they decide to pray. We can learn valuable lessons from their prayer.
Lesson 1: Praise the Lord
Both Tobit and Sarah start out the same way—by praising God and his goodness. Hmmm…that seems odd, doesn’t it? Most of us are in the habit of blaming God. Instead of praising him we start by grumbling against him. For some reason, they didn’t see him that way. Their holiness helped them to see God for who he truly is—all good and all loving. Neither expressed any doubt in that regard.
Think about it. Most of us judge God based on our circumstances. It’s a rather narrow way to look at the Author of all creation, the holy, immortal and all-powerful God. We become the center and look at him through the prism of our own sorrows. When we do that it’s no wonder things get distorted.
Lesson 2: Express Your Emotions
After praising God, they pray for the same thing: I’ll paraphrase it, please just kill me. It’s kind of amusing…God you’re great, you’re good, I love you but please kill me. What we learn from that is that our emotions play a role in our prayer life. We need to bring them to God as they are. But first we need to remind ourselves of who God is and then make our requests of him.
But Tobit and Sarah teach us the secret to prayer—praise God first, acknowledge who he truly is, his love and power, and then pour out your heart before him.
Lesson 3: God is Listening…As Are His Holy Angels
It was Raphael who presented Tobit and Sarah’s prayers to God. Angels are messengers from God, and we can gather from this scripture, they carry messages to God as well. Raphael was one of the Seven Spirits that worship before the throne of the Most High (or one of the big guns, shall we say). But each of us has a guardian angel interceding before God on our behalf, as well. Never forget that. We’re not alone, no matter how lonely we may feel at times. God is listening and our angels are before him pleading our cause.
Lesson 4: God Has His Own Timing
The fact that both of their prayers were received by God at the same time gives us another hint of how God works. He causes all things to work for the good of those who love him. And to do that, sometimes we have to wait for things to align in his plan. Tobit’s grief and Sarah’s distress were interconnected and the answer to their prayers intersected. Hence, we can conclude that God’s timing is perfect.
Lesson 5: God Will Never Be Outdone in Generosity
Tobit was a just man who served God his whole life. He was allowed to suffer for a time in order to experience the incredible sweetness of his prayer being answered in such a miraculous way—in a way that answered the prayers of others, as well.
Lesson 6: Trust in God
This is the big take away lesson from the Book of Tobit. Believe in his goodness. Praise him before you make your requests. Then wait on the Lord and expect miracles.