I had a bit of a crisis last night. I went on a run through my neighborhood and started trying to pray to the Lord I love. I wanted to pray for my test results on Thursday. I wanted to pray for my husband's big presentation. I wanted to pray for God's will and for his comfort as I grieved for my mom. But all that came out was sobs...lots of them. I began to run supernaturally fast as I sobbed loudly and uncontrollably, trying to talk to God. I'm glad no one was around. By the end all that would come out was, "Please, Lord, tell me what to pray."
After I caught my breath and quieted my crying (somewhat), I realized that my crisis revolved around the fact that I'm not sure what I believe about prayer anymore. I still believe it is powerful, a priviledge, a gift, an open-line of communication to our Savior, and a source of peace and strength. But I also believe that God is sovereign, constant and has the master plan. And I've seen lots of times when God very obviously does not answer prayer the way I would like. I prayed with my whole heart that He would heal my mom, and then I prayed just as fervently that he would let her go from this life peacefully. He said no to both prayers.
A few weekends ago, I went to Women of Faith in Portland with a group of my favorite ladies. One of the speakers challenged us to pray this prayer to God: "Anything, Lord." She meant that we need to be able to honestly tell God that we want ANYTHING that he wants for us in our lives. That includes challenges, trials and joys. I felt very convicted that for me that meant telling God that I want his will to be done in my life even if that means that he is not going to heal me. I felt a peace as I prayed that even though that is not was I want, that I could trust my Lord to take care of my boys and bring good out of my death if it came to that.
Yet now as my PETscan approaches, I wonder what to pray. Can I pray that my scan be clear? That I'm miraculously healed? Or, at the very least, that the chemo is gaining ground against the cancer? Here's the crux of my questions last night: while I believe God hears my prayers, what do they really do?
So I called my good friend and pastor, Stephen Roberts, prayed some more "Help me's" and had a long tearful talk with my husband, and while I am still not certain I have it all figured out, I do feel more steady in my conversations with God.
First of all, God wants us to bring requests to him. Jesus gives us the example of a persistant widow in Luke 18:1-8. He says that there was a judge in the town who didn't care about anyone, and there was a widow who came to him with the same request day-in and day-out. Finally, the judge was so annoyed and tired of the widow that he just gave into her request. Jesus concludes, "'And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?'" If this judge who was a big meanie will answer the widow's request, then God who loves us enough to give up his own son for us will most certainly answer our requests. In fact the verse leading up to that story says, "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up" (Luke 18:1). We should not stop bringing our requests to God.
Secondly, when the answer to our prayers is not what we want, that is not a reflection on our faith. Jesus prays in the garden of Gethsemane the night before his death, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39b). Obviously, God tells Jesus that it is not possible for the cup to be taken from him, because Jesus goes on to die on the cross. Jesus who is sinless and the most faithful man who ever walked the earth prayed for something that he did not get. So when the same happens to us, we have to trust that God's will and his ability to see the big picture were the reason and not our lack of faith.
With that said, I'm going to end this blog post differently than I ever have. I always love your comments and your encouragement is a HUGE blessing to me. I also crave and treasure your prayers. But now I'm asking for your input. I would love to hear your thoughts about prayer. You have all been so faithful to pray for me and bring my requests to God. How many of you prayed that my brain would be clear of cancer? And it was! Praise the Lord. But did we change that with our petitions to God? Or was that already God's plan? Anyway, please feel free to comment on this blog directly, on Facebook or message me if you have the time.
I'll leave you this thought that was a great nugget of wisdom from my husband last night (he really is superman!) When I find myself in that crisis again...when I don't know what to pray, I can turn to Jesus once again and follow his example. For he told us how to pray:
Jesus says, "'This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
I will continue to talk to my Lord even when words fail me. May you be blessed as you pray as well.