Letters written from a momma to her two teenage daughters.
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Dear Lauren and Lydia,
I’m a prayer struggler.
I feel that I should be up front and honest about it.
Prayer rarely makes any sense to me.
I’m not sure how you two will feel about prayer or even how you feel about it now.
I do pray. Somedays I consider just breathing a prayer. Sometimes a walk outside is prayer to me. Often my prayers have no words. Which is really strange for a word person like myself…but when you’re a prayer struggler sometimes it just seems easier to do it without words.
Today in church our Pastor talked about grief, honesty before God, and ultimately in the fact that as we come through grief and share in the sufferings of Christ we also learn to pray in the midst.
He talked about how we need to come to God and just confess…I would call this stage unload. Take the big dump truck of frustration and stuff that is overwhelming and drop it at the feet of Jesus. Don’t even try to clean any of it up. Don’t make it spiritual. Just tell it like it is.
He then talked about how we then need to ask. This is the part that I’ve struggled with. I know all of the verses but knowing doesn’t always equate to heart and feelings. I go round and round thinking…how in the world would I know what is best for someone else, what gives me the confidence to know that what I’m asking for is even good. It doesn’t help that I’ve attended and been a part of a lot of prayer things over the years.
I was that child who on Wednesday nights grew up on my knees at prayer meetings bored out of my mind as older people, (honestly…that’s all who came, except us Dennings’s kids) prayed through what felt like endless prayer requests.
“God be with…____________”
“God be with…___________”
I don’t know about God but I know I was weary of it all by the time the evening was done.
I even struggle when there are prayer events held at our church…vigils, prayer walks, etc. For me that would mean showing up and just breathing. Often that’s about all I have. But instead I dutifully file through the index cards of requests and try to respectfully pray for others because I know I’m supposed to and somehow my praying for them will change something. At least that’s what I’ve been told all my life.
I’m comfortable with prayer…don’t get me wrong. I’m the type of person who in any gathering if someone called on me to pray I could do it in a heart beat and be genuine about it. It’s ingrained in me. I’ve prayed my entire life.
I don’t struggle with the dumptruck load of reality on God and how I’m feeling and being honest with God. That part doesn’t get me. I figure He already knows anyway so it’s not like my disappointment, hurt or anger throws Him off.
But I do struggle with the asking.
Maybe because sometimes when you ask and nothing changes or the worst happens it all starts to seem a bit futile. I didn’t lose my faith in God when your dad died. My faith increased. I clung hard and still do. But…I think I lost a bit of my faith in prayer and the way that prayer and asking God are supposed to be able to change what happens.
My view tends to be more…God you know what you’re doing…so do your thing and I’ll try to trust and adapt to whatever you’re doing and live it out the best I can for your glory.
Today our pastor encouraged us to ask. To go ahead and ask for what we think would be best in any given situation. Some people say…”Be careful for what you ask for…” as if you ask for the wrong thing you will have just screwed up your entire life. Some people say ask in faith and it’s guaranteed to happen. I’ve heard so much mumbo jumbo for most of my life that it’s hard for me to sort through to find truth.
But somehow today…when our pastor simply said…”ask” and he didn’t overspiritualize it…but instead just made it more of a logical thing…”Hey God created a good world, sin messed it up and God is surely on board with bringing redemption to the bad…so go ahead and ask”…it made more sense to me.
Sometimes I think I’ve not asked because honestly…it’s a whole lot easier to not ask then to deal with the questions of why if you do ask and nothing happens or even the opposite happens. It just seems easier to me to submit and resign myself to what will be will be. I know some would chime in right now and say…”But Ruth…you’re missing out if you don’t ask God for anything.” As if God is only good if I ask. I know the verse…”you don’t have because you don’t ask.” I also know the reality of not having even while asking.
I’ve come to the conclusion that God and His presence are all I can expect and that He is enough. In letting go of everything else it’s been a little easier for me to cope.
But today…when I heard the ask portion of the sermon…I thought…maybe I am ready to venture more into that territory. Don’t get me wrong…I’ve asked for stuff…just last week I was praying that God would fix my sewer pipes without me having to dig up the ground. Didn’t happen…but I guess that’s besides the point. At least we currently have the problem fixed.
If I ask…if I genuinely just pour out my requests to God…and admit up front that I could be wrong…I could be off base, maybe that is all I need to do.
The third step was to again confess…but this time, confess who God is. God is our compassionate Father. If we are able to trust in this reality than whatever happens…pretty much we’ll be ok.
I get the feeling that I should be praying more. But I’m such a duty bound person that I have to be careful with that impulse. Prayer is not just about kneeling and attending a prayer service. Prayer happens in many ways that are often even without words.
I just want you two to know…you might struggle with prayer someday too. There are so many different views and lines of thought on the matter and you’ll probably hear some dumb stuff that people say to one another about prayer…my suggestion is, sort it through the filter of your own experience. I think ultimately, prayer is just about being aware of the Presence of God in your life in however that seems to work for you. Prayer is a place where we can be real and ugly if necessary. A place where we can ask questions and plead from time to time when we feel desperate. Prayer is a place where we hopefully come to know who God is and that no matter what He will never fail us.
Our pastor’s wife said “My hope is not in my circumstances changing. My hope is in God.” Deep truth there. I think that’s why anytime prayer seems to focus on circumstances changing I shy away from it.
I will probably always be a recovering prayer struggler. I’ve come to terms with it. And like I said…you can still count on me. I can pray anytime, anyplace and do it just fine. But I’ll probably never be the lady who holds up the banner on prayer and how to do it best.
My recommendation…just breathe. Just notice God in everything.
Love your momma who is asking that God would restore and redeem our family…a family who used to be four people. I’ve come to terms a long time ago with the reality of our life. I’ve made peace and in fact have made the best of it. But I’m asking…that God would see that the lonely need to be set in families. We have each other…but at some point, I’m very aware that I will be alone. I confess that God will always be with me. I know He will never leave me or forsake me. I know that if nothing changes His presence will be enough. But I’m also just being honest with God about my desire. The Lord gives, the Lord takes away…blessed be the name of the Lord.
Dear Lauren and Lydia,
You might be tempted to try and speculate on why certain things happen the way they happen when people pray. I think we all are easy to think we know what’s best or what somebody else should’ve learned through whatever “lesson” we think God is trying to teach somebody else. I would caution you. I feel cautious myself when it comes to this issue. I encourage you to not try and speculate on why things happen the way they happen. To not try and figure out what the plan is or what lesson is to be learned.
There’s a line of thinking that says “if I can just figure out the lesson I’m supposed to be learning than maybe I can get the trial over with.” I don’t really think this is probably how it works. And at this point in my life it sounds so small and childish to put it that way.
I’ve lived too much of life and seen too many good people in pain and suffering to think that I can possibly insinuate that God is just trying to do that kind of thing.
He says in Romans that He is working all for our good, to those of us who love Him and are called according to His purposes. I hang my hat and my very life on this promise. I trust it completely. I have to.
But to say…”this happened so that this could happen.” or “this happened so that certain person would be reached…”. It may be true it may not be. How would I possibly know?
I guess we tend to do this kind of thing because we are always trying to make sense of our pain and struggle. It’s only natural. The only problem is I’m not sure if we really can make sense of if. And I know for us to try and make sense of other people’s pain can really feel offensive.
So…last night when I talked with your Aunt Amy, and she was hurting and discouraged and wondering what purpose all of this could have at this point…I didn’t offer any answers or speculations. Because honestly, I have none. Why God would allow Amy to walk through what I believe is now 8 years of cancer issues and many other complications the latest being her kidneys and dialysis I don’t know. And frankly, what answer would be good enough where I would say “oh…that makes complete sense.” None. I’m sorry, I’m just being honest. I know in view of heaven someday all will make sense or won’t even matter anymore. But last night I didn’t offer speculation to Amy I offered love. I prayed with her and trusted that God loves her even more than I and He has promised to be working all for our good. I must leave it right at that period. I can’t take it one step further.
I then put it out to facebook for people to pray for her. And I am blessed, Amy will be blessed at the love and care people have extended to pray for her. I have to filter through and ignore anybody who would speculate as to why this is happening to her and how God is going to use it. He will use it, no doubt. She’s submitted to Him, but honestly…that is not my heart right now.
My uncle Mike died unexpectedly yesterday…I can’t tell you why. Girls I asked you to pray for Amy last night and it brought up a whole surge of emotion for us going back five plus years…I can’t tell you why your dad wasn’t healed here. I don’t know the answers. No answer will really be good enough.
I want you to pray. I believe in prayer. I know God loves us and I know He is real. We must pray, we must seek and knock and we must have faith that He will intervene. With God all things are possible. Story after story demonstrate this truth. Think Daniel in the Lions Den. Think Abraham talking with God about saving his nephew Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah. Think Peter being freed from jail as people gathered to pray on his behalf. It happens.
We don’t ever want to be like Job’s friends and speculate on why tragedy occurs. We don’t want to throw out our half baked reasoning and hurt people in the process. It’s better to just say we don’t know why. And it’s better for us to just hug people and say…no reason is going to make it be ok. If God chooses to reveal Himself where He shows us why than so be it….but I’ve found that most often we must live in the faith that even if we never know why we will still believe and trust. Read the chapter on faith in hebrews 11. Those people never saw the promise fulfilled while they walked this earth. But they still trusted.
Girls…you might be tempted to offer speculation to others, or to think you know why certain things have happened. I caution you to zip your lips and leave your thoughts where they belong…in your own head, but not spoken. Or…more likely, you may have people who when you’re in pain try to make sense of your pain. They will think they are helping you, even though they aren’t. People don’t know what to say or do so they say stupid things that are offensive without realizing it. Try to love them anyway. Look at their heart and their desire to help you and ignore their words. Learn to live with big question marks and bold streaks of not knowing and be ok with it. For the deepest pains in life there are no easy answers, no 1,2,3 steps to understanding. We just groan and cry and let the Holy Spirit intercede for us and then we trust and we cling. It’s all we can do.
From your momma who has no desire to speculate why Amy is going through what she’s going through and Jim and the kids. I love them to hard for me to speculate. I just want her to be healed. God hear my cry.
Dear Lauren and Lydia,
I have no easy answers when it comes to this subject. I have known of “prayer warriors” in my life…I would not call myself one of them. I’ve struggled long and hard with this issue. I’ve tried to piece together in my mind how it works and I can tell you it doesn’t make sense to me at all.
I know you two struggle with prayer as well. Maybe because of my influence. I’m sorry.
When we go to pray it’s so easy to come up against the wall that we prayed for dad and he died and to feel like our prayers only go that far and than plummet back to earth. I think sometimes the two of you almost feel like when I ask or tell you to pray that you are praying to a rock or an inanimate object.
I don’t bring this up to humiliate you. The truth is I think all of us go through these type of feelings at times. Times when prayer seems more like repetition than anything that actually changes anything.
I know this…when people are in a crisis and ask for prayer, even if I’m throwing up the basket ball and missing the basket and not scoring anything for the team figuratively speaking I refuse to not throw anything at all. If you ask me to pray for you I will throw that ball as hard and strong as I can because I know doing nothing is not the answer. Do my prayer sometimes just get whacked back down…do my prayers fall on deaf ears…sometimes it may feel like it. But the bible promises me that God hears the cries of the righteous. He delights in listening to us. So I do it. And I decide I don’t have to understand it to do it. I do it out of my love for the person I’m praying for.
I know that God and I are in a relationship and I know it’s not a robotic relationship. It’s give and take which means I talk, I listen, He talks, He listens. I don’t know if I actually sway Him to do anything differently than He would’ve anyway…I’m not sure I have that kind of pull in the relationship but at least if nothing else I am able to express myself. And I’m willing to take the chance that maybe…maybe I do have some sway. I would never not want to go for it and then find out later…if only I would’ve.
I know prayer requires great faith. This I understand because prayer is ridiculous without faith. It’s just words strung together said by rote without meaning unless faith is present. So I must have faith that God is listening, that He is real, that He loves me and cares about what concerns me today. I must have faith that He is acting on my behalf and is working all out for my good, despite what I might see.
Like I said…I know my struggle with prayer has surely influenced you. But don’t ever sit yourself out of the game and sit on the bench because your mother is not sure she is ever scoring in prayer. Just get out on the court and keep bouncing that ball around and throwing it up into the basket. You never know when it will go in. You never know when you might make contact and have it make a difference. I believe the risk is worth it. The effort is worth it.
I don’t have to understand to participate or to express faith. Faith is belief in what’s unseen. Prayer is just about the most unseen thing there can be. I choose to believe. I don’t feel it. I don’t work it up. I don’t pressure it. I simply make a choice to believe.
Girls…tonight we prayed for Aunt Amy. It was hard for you to know where to start. Honestly, you love Amy so hard and strong and you’ve lived through stuff that no child your age should’ve had to live through and you have questions that don’t have real great answers right now. I can understand. But I encourage you to pour out your hearts to God regardless. Do we know what the result will be…absolutely not. Will we understand His ways…most likely no. So we come to a crossroads…do we move forward anyway or do we stop and stand by the side of the road and give up. I say let’s move forward anyway. Let’s play the game of life (not to be overally trite here). Let’s give it everything we have. Let’s pour out our hearts and believe that GOd loves us and is listening. Let’s believe that it matters to Him what we desire.
God…I pray for a complete healing of Amy’s body. I pray for restoration. I pray for health. I pray for relief and recovery. God please do what only you can do. I will serve and love you no matter what happens but this is my prayer for a sister whom I love dearly.
From your momma who doesn’t understand the game but refuses to just not try. I choose to believe and to accept that even if I don’t understand it’s still worth the effort and time to pray for others.