Monday, July 30, 2007

Unanswered prayer

Yesterday, A and R went with me to church. (A had ulterior motives: he wanted R to get to know the nursery attendant so that we can ask her to babysit for us.) R only lasted about 5 minutes before he insisted he had to use the bathroom (he remembered using it on Easter, so he wanted to do it again - he didn't actually have to go), and then he wanted to go to the nursery to play with the toys. He and A came back just after the sermon, though, because there was a boy in the nursery that R wanted to share a toy with, and the boy didn't want to, so R was kind of hurt. Anyway, R was great during the rest of the service. He even went up with me during communion. So, despite the motives and the results, at least my boys were with me at church!

Pastor Goodman's sermon was on unanswered prayer, and it was another powerful one. He talked about how it would be crazy for God to answer everyone's prayer requests - it would result in utter chaos. (He mentioned the movie, "Bruce Almighty," but I kept thinking of a Garth Brooks song that goes, "One of God's greatest gifts is unanswered prayer.") This is something that I've, for some reason, been able to accept. I do pray for specific things to happen sometimes, although mostly for my friends and family (like, for A's eczema to be healed). For myself, I have more vague requests: that I'll raise R to be a good person, for help in my marriage/at work/etc., for comfort when I'm worried/depressed/anxious. I've always had trouble asking for very specific things because I know that God knows what's best for me. And, when my prayers aren't answered immediately, I know that God either has a different timetable or a different plan in mind for me. I worry when people pray for very specific things because what happens when those things don't happen or don't come true? Will they be disappointed in God and lose faith?

Well, one thing that Pastor Goodman talked about was how a lot of times people get angry at God for not answering their prayers. But he said that the best thing to do is tell God that you're angry at him, that you want to know why he ignored you, that you're mad and desperate and feeling very isolated from him. Because in doing that, you're still talking to God - and that just that act of talking/screaming/crying/etc. at him keeps you close to him. Pastor Goodman said that the absolute worst thing would be to become indifferent and just stop talking to God altogether.

I think that's such a wonderful message. Because I think that when people get disappointed in God or mad at him or even doubt that he exists, they tend to just give up and leave their faith behind. (I know I did!) We think it's not okay to get mad at God. But I'm sure that God would prefer that we be honest with him - even if we just want to tell him that he bites the big one. Because even in doing that, we are somehow comforted, healed, made better. I know that one of my most desperate prayers, which was simple ("Please help me") yet uttered when I was doubtful that God was even there, gave me a little bit of peace just in saying it. It reminds me of Annie Lamott's two favorite prayers: "Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you." Because sometimes that's all we can manage. I think that it really doesn't matter what we're saying during prayer; it's just the fact that we're saying something at all.

And, the hymn we sang after the sermon? "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" - My favorite verse:
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.


LEstes65 said...

I love this post! I know that some of the best lessons have been what I've perceived to be unanswered prayer. But lately, God has been blowing my mind with answers. Clear ringing answers.

Case in point, on Sunday, my parents pulled out of the house they were buying in my development. Their VA house wasn't selling - the VA housing market crashed. So I figured, ok, God has something else in store for them. But I tossed a little prayer up like, "Maybe you could send them a buyer tomorrow..." But I thought, no, God is teaching us to wait on his timing. And I was fine with that. So was mom.

Monday, someone bought their house!!! Can you believe that???!!!

Kansas Bob said...

Maybe prayer is just an invitation to Jesus ... asking Him to be with us and to help us. I think that we often need to watch over our heart when prayer is not answered because we can develop a deep offense at Him.

sandwhichisthere said...

you have established a wonderful tradition. A tradition of loving and caring and the joy of family. You were always wonderful and you still are. These used to be the traditions of humanity. Times change.
All of my love, always.