One thing that has been a struggle for me, really for most of my life, is prayer. Prayer is simply talking to God. I have always struggled to make it a priority. When this last year hit, while prayer was becoming a more regular thing in my life, it became a necessity. When Reece was in the hospital, I posted many, many prayer requests. There were so many needs, that I only posted what made sense for the general public to read. There were numerous times when I felt like I was scrambling to post all my requests–to cover all my bases with Reece–for prayer. There were many times I considered the phrase, “praying with great faith”. Was I doing this? Were my prayers faith-filled enough? Then things really began going awry and by the time Reece was admitted to Amplatz for his final stay, I gave up on writing our prayer requests. I realized that really no one had a clue other than God himself as to what was needed. Trying to ask God for specifics in regard to Reece seemed almost silly. And knowing that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and prays for us when we don’t know what we need or what to pray for, I decided to rest on that and not try to add anything further. There were so many people praying–faithfully praying–how could God not be hearing us? I concluded that God was indeed hearing us and accepted that he was, in fact, saying “no” to many things. Eventually, I accepted that his plan was certainly to heal Reece, but not here on Earth.
A couple of months after Reece passed away, I attended a Christian women’s conference with a couple of friends. While I took many positive things away from attending, I witnessed a big emphasis on how when you pray with great faith and put your specific requests before God, he will heal. In light of what had just happened with Reece, the whole topic felt crummy. Many people were clapping and excited about healing stories that people shared and all I could do was sit in my chair and feel numb and hardened. How many stories have I read about this happening to other people? How many people highlighted their own stories at this conference? What about the people who get a “no” despite their great faith in God? Where are those stories? Does my “no” answer in regard to Reece mean I didn’t have enough faith in God or that I didn’t actually believe in my heart that he could do what I was asking? I know that isn’t the case; I believed that God could have turned the whole thing around in a heartbeat. But hearing countless stories about other people–their miracles and happy-endings–was like pouring salt in my wound. Certainly, I don’t wish harm for other people; I’m glad they got the answer they were looking for. But how do I make sense of our situation in light of our own faith-filled praying? If I really sit in this place for a long time, it’s easy to feel ripped-off, cheated, and wronged. And over the last several months, when I’ve found myself in these mental places, I’ve been gently reminded that the victim mentality only minimizes Reece’s life’s purpose and further destroys the joy in knowing him and the work God is doing through his life. While I feel God nudged my thinking in this way, it still has left me in a confusing place in regard to my prayers. Why bother lifting up my specific requests to God, if he has a plan and he knows what is going to happen? Why does it matter? And, for that matter, I am tired of hearing “no”. My question is not can he do it, but will he do it? I have greatly shied away from praying many specifics because of this and it has become its own wound, independent of other hurts in life.
We’ve been in the book of Genesis this year in Bible study and, more specifically, we have been studying the life of Abraham. This week, we read about God and his discussion with Abraham about Sodom and how he planned on destroying the city. Abraham had a relative (Lot) in the city and he was concerned about his well-being (in addition to other people in the city). Abraham humbly discusses with God his desire to have God spare the city if there is a small number of faith-filled people. Although Abraham never mentions Lot by name, God eventually promises to spare the city if there are 10 people of faith. You can read the full text from Genesis 18 here. What eventually ends up happening is that God destroys Sodom, but spares the life of Lot, his wife, and his two daughters. Even though Abraham did not specifically ask about saving Lot (at least as it is recorded in the Bible), God did honor Abraham’s concern for Lot, despite his destruction of Sodom.
As I was answering the questions from our study, two things about this conversation stood out to me in regard to Abraham and his relationship with God. First, God knew what his plan was and also what was on Abraham’s heart. God answered Abraham by sparing Lot in the midst of Sodom’s destruction. This is not what God and Abraham had discussed; 10 faith-filled people were not found in Sodom. Sodom was destroyed, yet Lot and some of his family were still saved. Second, what I took from this passage more than anything was the tolerance of his conversation with Abraham–how he knew Abraham’s request and how he knew the end result. He allowed Abraham to give several requests in a row and relayed information that gave Abraham an understanding about the situation and about God himself. What stands out to me, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is God’s parental nature. He desired to have the conversation with Abraham for Abraham’s understanding. He spoke with him and discussed the desires of Abraham’s heart and also revealed part of his nature to Abraham. He showed concern, compassion, and approachability. And Abraham approached him with humility and respect. There is a lot packed into a couple of paragraphs of scripture!
After pondering this for while, it is the first time in a very long time that I feel like I’ve had some sort of healing around this issue or at least some direction on how to proceed in prayer. I have been able to separate the faith piece from the answer–at least in regard to a heart that genuinely is seeking Him. After all there is no algebraic equation for getting prayers answered the way in which we desire. If that was the case, I’d be a math wizard by now. I think that there are times when that is nearly implied–the more faith you have, the more God will answer your prayers with the answer you want. I know this is not the case and I don’t think I have been misguided on this in the past. What gives me great comfort and where I think some of my own healing lies is in the demonstration from this story that even though God knows the desires of our hearts, he still wants to discuss them with us. He still wants that relational piece. The discussion isn’t just about the request and the answer, but also about the teaching that lies within the process of asking. I think I’ve somewhat closed myself off to the details with God so I can lick my wounds and not give him an opportunity to say no to me. It feels like a door has been opened to begin those types of discussions with him again, which is a definite answer to prayer. Somewhere deep inside something feels slightly soldered back together and while it feels foreign, it’s probably the best place to start.