In our spiritual walk, prayer is as important as breathing. In an effort to make sure you know that, people tell you how to do it, how much to do it, how big of a deal it is, what to do when God “doesn’t answer”, how you’re doing it wrong, how you’re doing it right, what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. The Bible talks about it, Jesus does it. In the Bible, prayer brings plagues, bring life, brings prophesy, reveals the thoughts of God. So many times we look at the examples of prayer in the Bible and wonder why ours is not like that. Why we don’t get those results. I so badly want to set a soaking wet alter on fire like Elijah in front of the prophets of Baal. To cast demons out in a word. Bring down the Holy Spirit by laying on hands. To close my door in quiet and hear the whispers of God in my ear.
And yet, it doesn’t happen.
Let me clarify a bit. The miraculous has happened, I know it can: I’ve had moments of pure holiness and miraculous healing, and heard words of knowledge and holy wisdom. But all the time? I admit, that’s not exactly what’s happening right now. Why? Everyone wants to know why. Why don’t we have the power? Why aren’t our needs being met right now? Why can’t this happen the way we want it?
Matthew 21:22 “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
So what don’t you believe? Do you believe that verse is the whole truth? That God is who he says he is? That he can do it? That he wants to? That you are in his will? That he hears you? That he understands the whole situation?
For me, I didn’t believe I was who he said I was. I didn’t trust him. Parts of me did. I wanted to. But I couldn’t believe that I was worth listening to. That I was worth thinking about. I limited God in my disbelief, and in my defeated prayers.
Last winter I was overwhelmed at work where I struggled to manage an understaffed daycare, and discouraged at home. Honestly, that is an understatement. I was burned out, and so far beyond stressed that I don’t know how I kept going. I narrowed my vision, kept up the motions, and prayed I didn’t screw up to bad. That was my literal prayer. Don’t let me screw up too bad. Don’t let me destroy these little lives I am in charge of. Don’t let me screw up my own kids too bad. Don’t let them remember my impatience, all the times I snapped at them, my complete and utter failure as a mother, boss, and wife. Gently, God asked me to think about praying a different way. Let his desires become mine. It was convicting. I began to pray that he would be glorified. That he would protect the daycare, the kids, my daughters. That all I did was for his glory, that he would shine through the mess. That’s what I really wanted, anyway. That he could do more than just clean up my messes. I wanted him to move in power, to show himself, to be victorious.
But not much changed. The stress got worse, I didn’t handle it well at all. My prayers became defeated again, I was lost and couldn’t see a way out. One morning, in late winter, I was driving the familiar 10 miles into town. I’m sure I’d yelled at the girls again that morning, gotten a text that someone called in sick, and I didn’t know how I would make it through the week. Or honestly, what would become of me knowing that I had to keep going. “God,” I cried out. “It’s not fair to my girls. They get my washed up leftovers. They don’t get any of my fun, my patience, my laughter or smiles.” My heart was broken for my own children.
And God answered.
“Aren’t they all my children?”
It silenced me.
Each one of those children who came to us daily was one of God’s perfect, precious children. Each co-worker was as deserving of his glorious, wild, forgiving love as I was. Each person I came in contact with daily should have been treated with the attention, grace, wisdom, and patience that I wanted.
They are all his children.
And they are all my children. Not one is less or greater in his eyes.
This, God, this I desire. To hear your heart, even when it breaks mine. To be drawn somewhere higher than I could even imagine. To see your desires, your heart, and where I so miserably fail in my human short-sightedness. You call me so gently and faithfully to the impossible. You speak so simply, so softly, and so overwhelmingly. When you answer me, I know it is you because it is never what I could have imagined.
You don’t sweep in and solve my problems. You show me what the true issues are and the part I play. You help me look through your eyes and see the things of earth pass away in the light of your glory. You explain what truly matters. And you hold my hand and my heart through all of it.
Honestly, I don’t really know how to pray. I can’t give you a formula, or answer your heartbroken “whys”. I can give suggestions, and tell you some of my story. But it’s all between you and God. And you won’t figure anything out unless you earnestly, fervently, unceasingly pray. And give him room to answer and work.