This was a summer of big prayers.
It was also a summer of “no” in answer to those prayers.
It left me a little raw.
I declared myself “the persistent widow” from the beginning (Luke 18:1-8). Our son faced some huge obstacles that needed mountain-moving prayer. I was ready to be audacious. I asked big. Give me the pony, God, I know you can do it.
But He didn’t.
The summer left him without the housing we desperately prayed for this fall. In fact, he’s worse off than he started; one of his closest friends, who was going to room with him in the dorms, got into that housing, leaving him with a random roommate. That was a hard, hard no.
A dear friend of ours suffered a brain aneurysm. For two weeks we joined her husband and sons in aching prayer for healing. They are prayer warriors. Although I know it’s not necessarily true, it feels like their prayers reach God’s ears more than the rest of us because of that.
But they didn’t. Her healing came in the form of going home. That “no” was heartbreaking.
My Big Prayer
I had a big prayer recently, one I was hesitant to share with others, because what if it was a “no,” too?
All kinds of crazy thoughts came to mind when I thought about this request.
Part of me thought, “God, I feel I’m about due for a ‘yes,’ what do you say?” Almost like He owes me. (I told you-crazy thoughts).
On the other hand, He seems to be in the habit of doling out the “no” responses lately. Why expect something else?
And yet, I prayed.
And prayer is hope, and hope is scary.
Prayer is handing our hearts and dreams and control all over to God, like a small child emptying her sticky pockets into His hands. The track record of this summer made me throw some side eye at God, wondering, “what will you do this time?”
I know He does good. I just don’t know how much the good might hurt.
It makes me ask again, “why even do I pray?”
Do I pray because I want my way? You betcha. In my kingdom, comfort and happiness reign. The problem is, we’re meant to pray for His kingdom to come, not ours.
We become myopic about the ways we want God to answer prayer. Our definition of His goodness is narrow. We forget about His higher thoughts and ways.
But it’s so easy to do.
And that’s why every prayer is a wrestling, a choice to invite His wisdom, power, and sovereignty into our lives and declare our dependence, while at the same time, proclaiming, “yet not my will but yours be done.” We lay our desires before Him, and then vulnerably allow Him to answer as He pleases.
When Jesus saw people walking away from Him in disappointment, He asked His disciples, “Do you want to go too?”
If I don’t get the answers I seek, will I walk away? No, because actually what I want more than an answer is Him. I want what only He can do in me.
Prayer Changes Us
I want what prayer does to me. It takes me out of the position for which I am not qualified-that of decider of my fate, god of my world, ruler of my kingdom. It reminds me who I am and what I can and surely cannot do.
I want what prayer did for our family this summer. It forced us to look at life through the eyes of faith, not sight. Prayer teaches us to look beyond what makes sense and believe God will prove Himself faithful and good in ways we don’t expect. As our son said, “I realized I was praying for what I want and I wasn’t thinking about what God wants for me.” Isn’t that always the way we’re tempted to go?In the end, prayer is less about moving the hand of God, and more about resting in it.
As I drove the other day, lifting my big prayer to God, I thought, “Maybe this will be a no. If it is, God will use it. It will be ok.” Either way, I’m grateful for how it keeps me dependent, hopeful, surrendered.
“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” -C. S. Lewis