Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In Which I Pray with a New Expectation




Do you remember when you were a little kid and you wanted something so you asked your parents for it?

Remember when the answer was "yes"?  That feeling of sweet relief that came flooding over you because you knew that your wish was about to come true.  That baseball glove, that Barbie Townhouse, that treat from the ice cream man was yours.

Because you asked.  And the answer was, "yes".  It was decided.

But remember when the answer was "no"?  The crush of disappointment, the dropping of the head, the shoulders sagging with the weight of the world because that Silly Putty, that book, that candy bar at the grocery store checkout line was not to be yours.

Because you asked. And the answer was, "no".  It was decided.

But how about when the answer was "maybe" or "wait and see"?  The building anticipation.  The breathless wondering.  The cautious hopefulness. The constant checking-in to see if an answer had been decided upon yet.

Because you asked.  And the answer was, "we'll see".   My least favorite answer.  Because it wasn't decided.

I sometimes feel this same way when I pray.

But instead of requesting something of my parents, I'm asking the Lord for something.

And while my parents' answers might have delighted or disappointed me in the moment,  my response to God's answer has the capacity to affect the rest of my days here on this earth.

I've been praying one specific prayer for twenty years now.  And another prayer for seven years.  To these two distinct prayers, God's answer has been, "wait and see".

Honestly, I hate when God's answer is "wait and see".  I hate the swinging between hopeful and hopeless.  I don't like the breathless wondering.  I grow weary of the same old prayers.

But the crux of "wait and see" is this:  when I know deep down inside that God could so easily answer my chronic, constant pleas, so effortlessly heal, yet for some reason I cannot fathom, He chooses not to, what am I going to do?

I have to figure out a way to keep trusting my God, day in and day out, no matter what.

In trying to discern how I am to respond to God's "wait and see", to keep trusting that He loves me and wants only good for me, I'm looking at these two prayers, and other requests of mine, a little bit differently these days.

In Psalm 5:3, it says, "in the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly."

This verse is simply to encourage us, to remind us that when we pray, we can whole-heartedly expect that God hears us and He will answer.  The verse does not give us any clues as to what that answer might be.

I think that most of my life, I have expected the answer to be yes.  Because many times, it has been.

But herein lies the problem - when the answer is not yes, when my expectations are not met, my world is rocked.

On these two particular consistent prayers of mine, my faith has been shaken.  Because I expected the answer to be yes.

So I'm going to do a bit of an experiment.

I'm going to try a different approach because God knows better than anyone else that my response to His "wait and see" hasn't been all that effective.

I'm going to pray with a new expectation.  I'm going to quit assuming the the answer will be "yes".  I'm just going to expect an answer.

In fact, I'm going to anticipate that the answer could very well be "no".

Why "no"?

Frankly, because it hurts less if I don't get my hopes up.  Total defense mechanism, I know, but hey, I'm just keeping it real here.

And if you'll allow me to dig a little bit deeper for a moment, I'm going to consider the answer might be "no" because I'm not supposed to get everything I want from this life.  All my prayers aren't supposed to be answered with a "yes".  Earth is full of suffering and pain and heartache.  But this world is not my permanent home.  I don't belong here.

C.S. Lewis explains this so well - "If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world."

Does that mean I don't believe God can answer these two prayers of mine with a big, fat "yes"?  Not at all.  In fact, I am 100% sure that God can.  However, I'm not 100% sure that He will.  He may have something different in mind.  

Does this mean that I quit praying, especially those two long-standing prayers of mine?  No, because there is more to prayer than just making requests.  Praying is a relationship.  And through prayer, my Lord and I communicate and my heart is drawn closer to His.  

Soren Kiekegaard said, 'Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays"  And that is why I keep praying.  Because it changes me in the best possible way.

Sometimes, here on earth, the answer will be "yes".  And that's a pleasant surprise, an unexpected gift from a loving God who does not want us to suffer, but to put our hope in bigger things than what we can get from this earth.  I'll be grateful and thankful for the unexpected "yes".

But Heaven is where all the answers are "yes".  Where we can forever expect the positive, the good, the awesome glory, the perfection that we are so longing for.  The life that will deliver beyond what I can ask or imagine.

Romans 8:18 says, "we have sufferings now, but these are nothing compared to the great glory that will be given to us."

I, for one, am really looking forward to that great glory.


9 comments:

  1. Totally a print and keep in my Bible for reminder kind of post!!! You paint a fantastic portrait with your words describing some of the same struggles I know I have faced - and no doubt others have too!
    Thank you for keeping it real with us-- especially since you've hit "big deal blogger status" and all ;)

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    1. As always, thanks for your encouragement, Darla!

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  2. I know this feeling all too well. I have a chronic, degenerative, neurological disorder...and I have encountered several people along my path who have chastised me - claiming that if I only had "enough faith" I could go to God and he would deliver me from my illness. When I was younger, that left me feeling outraged. "How DARE they blame me for my condition?! If I only had enough faith, MY A**!!!" If only it were so simple.

    Praying for healing seems to be a huge conundrum to me. I truly believe God gives us only so much as we can handle - and through our trials we are drawn closer to Him.

    For a long time, I was angry with God for my condition - I lost so much to it. My hopes and my dreams for my life all were ripped away from me, and none too gently - I was devastated. Looking back now, though, I see that my life has been deliberately molded and shaped by my trials. Yes, my life is nothing like what I had wanted for myself - but because of my trials, I am strong. I have compassion and empathy past anything I might have had the capacity to know without my trials.

    I have honestly stopped praying for healing. In my life, I was not able to fully embrace God's path for me until I completely accepted that I was on the path He put me on and I am going to continue down this path until He says otherwise. Who am I to ask Him to remove something from my life that He put there for my edification?

    There seems to be this mentality these days which dictates that if misfortune befalls us in our lives, it's because we do not have enough faith in, or are not close enough to, God. I believe the opposite is true. God draws us closer to Him through our trials. In some ways, we are not able to have faith without being tested.

    Yet God is a loving God and does not wish for us to suffer. So should we pray for deliverance or not? ^_^' A conundrum. I, like you, do continue to hope - at least in the back of my mind - that one day the answer will be yes..even though I have stopped actively asking.

    I love hearing, in such raw and honest terms, how others experience their relationship with God. Our approaches are so different and so much the same. It's awesome to be reminded how very connected we all are through our faith. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Oh Kathryn, your comment is a whole other blog post in itself. Healing - to pray or not to pray... that is the question. I so want to want what Gods wants - does that make sense?? But my human, mama heart wants my kids to not struggle. I just can't help it.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an honest, thoughtful response - I'll be pondering it for days to come.

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    2. I completely understand. My son is on The Spectrum and has asthma and allergies to boot...and my mother's heart wishes I could take it all from him so he could never have to struggle. Yet, he's a beautiful soul inside and out. How could I pray for any part of him to be changed, knowing it would alter who he is?

      I agree that it's a totally separate issue...and exactly the same all at once! To me, the difference is that it feels more urgent to pray for healing of any sort. But at the end of the day, we are still making a request of our higher power and submitting ourselves, in faith, to His mercy.

      Thanks for your reply as well - I think of you often - I have been moved many times since I started following your blog, and I feel a connection to you through our like experiences that makes me feel stronger, in a way. Thanks as always for sharing!

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  3. You never cease to amaze me with your honesty and transparency in your blog! Well said and what a great reminder of what God does or doesn't do for us because He wants only His very best for us. Thankfully we can't always see into the future (I really think it is because it would probably scare us to death because it is most likely nothing we would have even anticipated.) and the journey is the process in which we build our relationship with Him. I will be honest and transparent with you now. In our ladies Bible Study we are doing "Forgotten God", which is a study on the Holy Spirit. This study has really affected the way I pray and look at things. It has caused me to look and dig deeper as well as be totally honest with myself and God. I have been changing as the Holy Spirit shows me things I didn't even realize were there. The biggest thing I realized...I love the Lord and all that He is and does for me, but realized I WASN'T IN LOVE WITH HIM! This was such a rude awakening for me and I was humbled and ashamed I had taken Him for granted. I repented and want to be totally and abandoned in loved with Him! I notice I have had more focus on Him. I have been able to trust Him more than I ever thought I could (I thought I was trusting Him, but only partially I realized). Trusting Him to overcome my fears (fears I didn't realize I had), trusting Him to "turn down the volume of noise" in my life (distractions) in order to have true quiet time with Him...my list can go on and on. It is exciting to see God is working in all of our lives right now in a way that can only amount to Him being the one doing it! Everything from Explore God, to our BBC blog (which by the way was totally awesome today), and our Ladies Bible Study, all really focusing on relationship with Him so that we are equipped to do what He wants in our lives and for Him with the right heart attitude. Hope all this makes sense. I am truly rejoicing for us all today.

    What is so amazing...In the beginning, I didn't even want to be there! Yep, I confess it. It was only out of obedience to my husband and my best friend's encouragement to go that I wound up being there for this study. I am PTL because now, I realized what I would have missed!

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    1. Teresa - I'm so glad you followed through with the Bible Study and rather than having a bad attitude, you committed to getting something out of it. Francis Chan is amazing and I think you'd have to be a bump on a log not to learn something from him. I agree, I think the Holy Spirit is doing a work at BBC, as well as in Austin. And in the hearts of so many of us..

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  4. There is no gray area when it comes to God and His perfect answers. WE, as humans, create that gray. For me, it is ALWAYS "yes" or "no". Sometimes, I either deny the answer, or I choose not to receive it and by doing so, I create that imaginary "maybe, wait and see" scenario. But I believe from God's perspective, He has already given a clear "yes" or "no" to every question, every plea, and it is us who jumble his otherwise clear response. I do believe at times the answer is, "Yes, in a few years, just be patient." Or even "No, I have something better for you in a few weeks." (Not to be confused with an indecisive "wait")
    I totally agree with your assessment of prayer not being meant to change God (or His mind), but rather serving a purpose of changing us. It connects us with the One Who created us, Who knows us better than we know ourselves and Who loves us more than any other could. In my own parenting journey, I experience guilt any time I cannot give my child a definite answer. I know my Father always gives me definite answers and I'm expected to offer my children no less. When my children act out because the answer given goes against the answer expected it becomes a lesson for me in my own relationship with God. How do I respond when He gives me guidance as I search for assistance and direction from Him? Do I stomp my spiritual feet like a two-year-old, throwing a tantrum and trying to convince myself He doesn't care? Or do I humbly accept that He hears me, He loves me, and He sees the bigger picture which I cannot? My family struggles deeply on several fronts, the worst lately which has been communication access to a worship experience closer to home. Our finances prevent us from feeding our cars with gas constantly. My mother recounts her prayers for financial stability for my family, solutions to other issues, concern for certain things we have faced, and a burden for the troubles teenagers experience today (I have one of those in my home!). What my mother fails to see, however, is that through her prayers, God has answered; He is working in each member of my family in ways my mother is unaware of. When I contemplate that, I realize that hard as I may pray for my own children (two of whom are now adults), raw as my knees may become, much as I may wonder if my prayers even get through, God is most assuredly already working in the lives of my children and they are reaping the benefits unbeknownst to me (yet!). Do my children struggle/suffer? Of course! Do I feel helpless as a mom? I used to, but then I realized that I do the best thing I possibly can for them by offering them up to the Lord in prayer each day. By directing them to the Word of God for their own answers, by training them to be humble and ready to surrender to His will (because that makes "NO" responses that much easier to accept!).
    As a family, we continue to pray for Christian fellowship which allows us the communication access we need and provides the outside support our children need. We continue to pray for the issues our children face, for our own financial struggles and an answer to situations. God has assured us He is there, He hears us, He has answered, and yet we continue struggling. Why? Possibly for the same reason a group of people were once wandering around a wilderness for 40 years...it took them that long to figure out what God was trying to tell them. I know without a doubt God has answered. His answer is clear. Comprehending it, however, seems to be another matter for which we once again get on our knees and ask for mercy in our limited understanding of His ways. He, in return, is merciful and patient and sends us back on our way for another attempt at figuring it out.
    So back to my original comment...sometimes that "wait" is really us wearing our blurry glasses to fuzz out an answer we are afraid to knowledge for fear of not liking it. Just another perspective on prayer and answers. :)

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  5. Pam - WOW! Thanks for your heartfelt, thoughtful reply! So much in there to think about. The first thought that comes to my mind is how sometimes I don't even pray about something because I'm afraid of God's answer. How's that for wearing "blurry glasses"?? :)

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