The “Memories” feature on Facebook has been a mixed blessing. Daily, I am reminded of what I posted this time last year. It takes me right back to UNM Trauma ICU, sitting bedside. Without the need of written details, and as fresh as if it was yesterday, I feel the cold, uncomfortable, fake leather chair and hear the relentless beeps of the monitors. Oh and the smell — that suffocating, sterile hospital smell that clings to you, even when you leave.
Still, it is that initial sight of Ian that causes my heart to skip a beat. My firstborn, ginger hair shaved on the right… over 100 stitches, swollen and misshapen skull and most of his face, neck and body covered in bandages. A kindness I grew to appreciate, shielding me from seeing the extensive damage underneath. Even my vivid imagination could not manufacture a scarier scene. Bees in surgical masks and gowns buzzing about him connecting machines and tubes critical to sustain his life.
Weeks later, we learned important missing information from the police report. 7:06pm the accident occurred. 7:17pm Ian arrived at the hospital, in shock and unconscious. The police had written “DOA” in the margin with a question mark. Even though we were Ian’s parents, because the location of the accident was a crime scene, we weren’t allowed to know much more. Perhaps God spared us from hearing details that night. At 7:45, when we arrived, emergency brain surgery was already underway.
We were sent to a basic conference room, with so many chairs pacing was a challenge. Doug, Becca and I waited for someone, anyone, to come talk to us. 20 minutes felt like 2 hours. A woman, who didn’t know a whole lot, tried to give us something to hold onto. The plastic bag of Ian’s cut off clothes, phone, and crushed tennis shoes did not help. She was speaking but her words were so vague and guarded, I just wanted her to leave. When she did… the 3 of us, powerless, desperate and struggling for balance, did the only thing we could do. We prayed.
Prayer was MY life support. Come to think of it… prayer is my life support. Since this past year has been “on the job” prayer training, I’ve been thinking about this discipline and it’s increased prominence in my life. Perhaps you’ve asked the same questions I have.
If God is sovereign, why pray?
It’s a two part answer– For God’s glory and for our benefit, in that order.
The order is important. We humans get ‘the order’ of things messed up all the time. Our spouses are often a higher priority than God. Our kids take the top spot above our spouses. We give priority to our jobs more than our families. Tennis or golf or football or the lake house takes precedence over our neighbor. Getting things out of order is as basic as life itself. And it’s called sin. Sin is that Self Indulgent Nature that says… I’ve got this. I know best. Once again… it’s all about control. Darn, that stings. Guilty for sure.
Why pray? Because God said so. It’s a command. Below are just a few of the instances that scripture commands us to pray.
- “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” –Ephesians 6:18
- “Pray for those who persecute you” –Matthew 5:44
- “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” –Romans 12:12
- “Pray continually” -1 Thessalonians 5:17
Yes it’s a command. But it is FOR OUR BENEFIT.
A Healthy Habit
The quote dates back to WWI but it is just as true today. “There are no atheists in foxholes.” I’ve been in a foxhole more than once in my life. And was my prayer in that moment more fervent? You bet your sweet bippy. Thank God for His mercy to welcome our prayers at all times even when He hasn’t heard from us for awhile. But what about the non foxhole times of our lives? Since my foxhole lasted much of last year, I’ve been fortunate to have established some prayer habits. Here are a few suggestions —
Don’t overthink it
Prayer is nothing more and nothing less than communication with God. Rest in this truth — HE ALREADY KNOWS. He knows your motives, your thoughts, your fears, your desires. God knows your insecurities. After all, he created you. But He LONGS to hear it from your lips. Don’t worry about the words you choose or getting it just right. He can and will translate perfectly.
Whether you’re happy, sad, hurt, scared, frustrated, mad, grateful or guilty, pray. Resist the temptation to clean things up before you go to Him in prayer. Tell Him like it is. He knows anyway.
I recall during frigid Illinois winters, bursting pipes was not uncommon. It’s a lesson you learn once because frozen pipes are easily preventable. A slow constant trickle of water from the kitchen faucet does the trick. I think of my prayer life as that slow trickle. It keeps the conduit between God and me free and clear and unfrozen. When the conduit has constant flow, I’m much more likely to hear from Him, an invaluable gift.
All times, not just the needy times
Hypothetically speaking of course, what if the only time you heard from your college student was when he or she needed something?” It hurts doesn’t it? God is merciful. But He must be sad when he only hears from us when we need Him.
I’ve been praying for X,Y or Z a million times for what feels like a million years and my prayer has still not been answered. So what’s the point? Can you relate?
Unanswered prayer is hard. But both scripture and my experience tells me that sometimes God is silent. Remember Paul’s repeated request for God to remove his so called thorn. (2 Corin 12:7-10) His ways are not my ways.
Prayer is about a relationship
I admit, that it is very hard to do. But I give you the same advice I give myself, He knows best. Trust Him. It is all about my posture. He is God and I am not. This time last year we were a broken record about Ian’s lungs and getting them to work. Masses of prayers across continents were praying. And God seemed silent. Daily Ian’s lungs declined. At the time did I question Him. Of course I did. What I’ve concluded, a year later, is that prayer is not about results. Prayer is about a relationship.
Disappointed by God’s silence or slowness was common for me. At those times, frustrated, I would often just pray His scriptures back to Him. Even if I didn’t feel their truth, I claimed their truth. The conduit remained open, and my faith in God’s providence grew.
Don’t Miss the Blessing
My favorite benefit of constant prayer is how I’ve been blessed because of it. A friend just shared a video about the “shoulder tap”. Those times in your life you get a nudge that you need to say or do something. It’s that subtle hunch, prompted by God. Unless your conduit is free flowing, you won’t feel the tap or get the hunch or sense the nudge. You will miss it.
I have a good friend who is going through chemo. She’s younger than me and it’s scary. I’m unsure how best to support her especially because she is so reserved and private. But I pray for her often. Several weeks ago, in the grocery store, I picked out some meat. (as a vegetarian my meat cooking skills have gone to pot) As I put the meat in my cart, I thought of my friend. She would know how to fix this I thought. I bet she’s an excellent meat cook for her meat loving family.
Obscure for sure, but at that moment I felt the tap… text her. Let her know you’re praying. I did. Two weeks later our paths crossed and she was eager to tell me something. It turns out, the day I texted, she faced a LONG MRI. As the time approached her anxiety level was out of control. She just couldn’t do it. About to “abandon ship”, she received my text. A calm came over her that she couldn’t explain, she reported. We both smiled.
Very practically, she was able to complete the MRI. My prayers made a difference. She was blessed, and I was blessed knowing the part I played. I LOVE the privilege of participating in His purposes. Don’t you?
Prayer is mysterious. But it works. When we pray, God is glorified and we benefit. Be a trickling faucet.
Dear Lord, I know prayer makes a difference. I know it’s a precious opportunity to grow our relationship. Thank you for your grace and mercy when I allow my pipes to freeze. Teach me to trust you enough to tell you what you already know. Encourage me to talk to you at all times to keep our conduit open. Thank you for your promise in Genesis 12:2. “…and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” It is my delight as I have been blessed, to be a blessing.