There was in the days of Elisha a certain  widow whose circumstances had brought her to cry for help. She was the widow of one whose life had been expended in the service of the God of Israel; he was of the sons of the prophets.  Their life had always been hard. We have been given a few glimpses into how the prophets had lived. Food was scarce; one picked poisonous gourds in  ignorance of the fact but simply to try to swell the pot to feed the members. Their possessions were  so few, a borrowed axe which fell into the water became a problem.

She was no stranger to ‘making do’, stretching  the budget to feed and care for the two sons God  had given them. They grew into manhood blessed with the riches of a loving mother and father whose  spiritual education would have been their primary  concern.

Tragedy came and took the life of the father and  so further financial hardship came and a large debt  meant the servitude of the two sons.

To whom could she turn? She was a resourceful  woman but there seemed no way out of the dire  strait she was in. God had always been the family  guide, so naturally she turned to Him. Elisha had  ‘saved the day’ when the poison was in the pot and  when the axe-head was dropped in the water; he had  the answer then and would tell her what to do now.

Elisha did have an answer and she would learn that God is always there to answer our prayers and  needs.

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye  shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:  For everyone 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? Or if he  ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?” (Matt 7:7–10).  Therefore whatever you want, make your requests  known to God. He knows before we ask what we  have need of, but He wants us to ask. Jesus could  command God’s power, yet when there was need to  feed the 5,000 with but five loaves and two fish, he  gave thanks to his Father and He multiplied ‘what  the disciples had in the house’.

God can do “exceeding abundantly above all  that we ask or think, according to the power that  worketh in us” (Eph 3:20).

Does this mean we have only to ask God and  wait till He solves all our problems? Sad to say,  many do feel we are relieved of any participation  if we just pray.

Elisha’s words brought the widow into focus to  find her answer, “What shall I do for thee? tell me,  what hast thou in the house?” At this critical time  she had very little but God would use what she had  and He would add to it. She had just one pot of  oil. “There is treasure to be desired and oil in the  dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it  up” (Prov 21:20). Scripture abounds with references  to the value of oil. One of its most important uses  is to provide light and therefore it often represents  the illumination of the Word of God. The parable of  the Ten Virgins is probably the best illustration of  the need for every disciple to have oil of the Word  of God burning brightly in his lamp.

The sons and the widow had to become involved;  they had to use what was at their disposal and God  would add to it. God does not ask from us what we  cannot give but what we do have must be worked  with. The ‘one talent man’ of Christ’s parable was  not asked to produce the same as the ‘five talent  man’ but he was expected to use it as best he could.

“Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy  neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few”;  and she and her sons poured the God-given oil and  filled every vessel till none remained! Some of the  oil was sold to obtain money so that her two sons  would not become slaves. The remaining oil proved  sufficient to secure a living for the family. God surely  provided “exceeding abundantly” above all they asked.  Truly He “giveth to all men liberally” (Jas 1:5).

What do we have in the house that God can  use? Do we have a pot of precious oil in our house? Yes, we do and it has been made available to all:  “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto  my path” (Psa 119:105). The lamp is essential but  is of little value unless filled with oil. The oil is only  obtained by personal effort, drip by drip extracted  from the olive even as we obtain knowledge from  the Word of God, gathered by constant reading.  God can and will supply all our needs when we ask,  but we, like the widow have a part to play. James  writes, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of  God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideh  not; and it shall be given him” (1:5).

Having prayed thus, we must not sit and wait for  a miracle for answers to flow into our heads. God  has given us the prerequisite, His book of wisdom.  We have it readily to hand, and need only to read it  to obtain this wisdom.

So the oil is available to us and there are  many empty vessels that we should try to fill. Our  neighbours, by our personal efforts, could hear the  good tidings spoken of by Isaiah, of liberty for  captives, the opening of prisons for those who are  bound, the receiving of beauty for ashes and the oil  of joy for mourning.

Let us be diligent to use ‘what we have in the  house’.