Thursday, August 15

the work of prayer

I’ve just spent the last half hour reading a stranger’s blog about infertility, baby woes, and maintaining hope.  Crying, actually, over this stranger’s heartbreaking story. The thing is, everyone in the Christian circle talks about God’s timing, God’s plans, and God’s goodness—all of which I believe in, am familiar with, and have struggled with. 
That time I didn’t get into the class I wanted, but instead got into a class where I met our wonderful pastor and his wife. That was God’s timing, plan, and goodness.
That time my sweet (little girl) dog died. I questioned His goodness, plan, and timing.
So, when I pray for things I so desperately want, my hope actually gets squashed by remembering that everything is in His timing, His plan, His goodness. I think, “I’m praying for this, but I understand that You’ve got a plan so I guess I’ll just wait and see.”
What kind of awful Christianity is that?
A speaker at our retreat this spring—I’ll post her name just the SECOND I can remember it—said, “Prayer doesn’t work, it is work.”  By that, she meant that prayer is not about achieving our every needs and wants. It isn’t about perfecting a tool or skill that gets us exactly what we ask for.  What she meant, about this sacred, difficult, joyful act of prayer, is that it’s a relationship builder—a builder for trust, faith, love, and respect.  Each time you pray, it isn’t necessarily about getting the things you want, when you want them. It isn’t even necessarily about healing a loved one, comforting a friend, and so on.  At its core, prayer is about coming to sit with God, speaking to Him about your life, mind, and heart, trusting Him with them, and having faith that He’ll hold them tight in His chamber of secrets, His heart.
So, my negative self-talk (it doesn’t go away so easily) keeps telling me, “prayer doesn’t work”…period. It has a way of telling me that I can keep praying, but I’m just a little game piece in the big game of Life. And the Dice Roller? He’s the controller.
Plain and simple, this negative self-chat has got to go.
Plain and simple, I’ve got to remember that prayer doesn’t work because it isn’t something I can perfect or be a master at.  I can’t do it enough that I can write a book and instruction manual.  Prayer doesn’t work because my God is not a boss, a game show host, or the Wizard of Oz.  Prayer is work because it asks me to come every day with honesty and vulnerability.  Prayer is work because it requires me to come to the Throne of God as the stained, wrecked human being that I am, and allow myself to be cleansed and healed by the Heavenly Glory of God.  My God is a divine Creator, a loving Ruler, and listening Father.  Yes, He’s got some things up His sleeve, but not to throw me into the wind and watch how it pushes and sways me; He’s got big, good plans that involve much more than I could ever ask for. So, I’ll keep asking for exactly what I want, trusting it is a plan already made by Him and hoping He will teach me to receive it.
Prayer doesn’t work because I could never ask for all the good things He has for me; prayer is work because it asks me to trust and hope in those plans.

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