Why I may not pray what you’ve asked
It came to me, as it often does, while I was out running along a country road. A name, a face; someone dear. She had slipped from my heart to my mind, and I knew what it meant. “Time to pray.”
Now, in the past, in that old, working-so-hard way I’d lived in, I would’ve set about praying what I wanted. From my emotions. From my own understanding of the needs. And those prayers would’ve run along the lines of (paraphrasing here), “Help So-and-So see the error of his or her ways and to come to You right now. Please don’t let him (A, B, and C). Please, oh please keep her from (D, E, and F).”
Looking back, there was an unspoken theme of, “Do it right now! Immediately, so no one has to suffer! Spare us/him/her/them from all of this pain and discomfort! Heal it right away! Fix it now!” And while part of that may have been in line with His will, the Lord’s redirected my steps, how I pray.
Part of my retraining came through a prodigal son. I cannot count how many times I would go to the Lord with the kinds of requests I listed above. “Keep him from; help him to.” And I watched his continual slide. Then came the day when we had to evict him, putting him in God’s capable hands. Letting go…
You know what? Just as I feared, things got worse. Far worse. From every outward sign, God was deaf. Didn’t care. Because God wasn’t keeping him from, helping him to. God, it appeared, had gone missing.
The reality of it–the glorious truth is this, that God was working all the time, and in mercy, He’d not answered those prayers. For there did come a day, a day we called “worst,” that turned Running Son around, pointing his feet toward true life.“Worst” to “best.”
Back, now, to the girl whose name came to mind the other day. This is what the Great Friend told me straight. “Do not pray for this to be over quickly. For if I were to bring this to a quick and sudden end, it would abort the work I am wanting to do in them all.”
Ahhh. “It would abort the work…” Just as a physical abortion brings death and ends life, so a spiritual abortion can, too. If God would’ve answered every prayer for my son, there would have been so much work that would not have happened (hear me right now), not just in our son, but in us!
Prayer has gotten very simple for me now, and I can tell you it’s such a relief. Instead of praying from my own emotions, flinging a tsunami of words to the heavens, hoping the right ones will stick, I get quiet. And I listen, and this is what I now say. “What are YOU praying for him/her/them? How do you want ME to pray?”
And He tells me.
God might not want to heal you right now. He might not relieve all your suffering. If He tarries, it’s not because He hates you or He’s missing. It’s because He loves you (and your loved one), and He’s working out life and not death.
Instead of, “Keep her/him/them from (X, Y, and Z),” it’s entirely reasonable and safe to pray this: “Keep him. Keep her. Keep them.” Period.
In His keeping,