Sunday, February 10, 2013

Thoughts on Prayer: Or why I'm not allowed to think after 11 pm

I've been MIA.

And in Mia... MIA in Mia? Sure. We'll go with that.

Life's thrown a couple curveballs, major ones at that, and it's been a lot to process all at once. not to mention making it impossible to blog. Some excuses are more valid than others.

For instance, having your entire thumbnail jabbing up into your eye causing a pretty severe cornea abrasion that makes it impossible to keep your eyes open: valid excuse.

Getting distracted by new episodes of your favorite shows: not so much.

But regardless, lots of things happening on the other side of the keyboard, things that can't be shared here for a variety of reasons, and it got me thinking about my own worst enemy: myself. More specifically, the part of my mind that refuses to shut off and continues to wander until the early hours of the morning.

Am I the only one who has this problem? During the day, when Im staying busy, that part of me, we'll call her Gertrude, stays firmly put and doesn't interrupt my ability to function. However, late at night, when my defenses are down, Gertrude sneaks out of her confinement and begins pestering me with her doubts and misgivings.

I start second guessing myself, my decisions, my faith, my life, my hopes and fears. Life always seems so hopeless at 2 am with the lights off, in my solitary bed, far away from friends and family. God feels foreign and silent, if not non-existant, and the hope that life will someday improve all but dissipates.

I've instituted a rule that Im not allowed to think or make decisions after 11 pm.


So the good thing is, crossroads are approaching, and possibilities in many aspects of my life are coming into focus, which has all in all renewed a constant life-long struggle: prayer.

I have a love hate relationship with prayer, but Im coming to realize that most of my problems are user error, or rather, negative consequences of the way our culture, and churches, teach about prayer. For anyone who knows me personally, or has been reading the blog over the past year, this should come as no surprise. I've always had issues with prayer. I get caught in a cycle: I can't wrap my mind around the fact that if something good is supposed to happen in my life (aka a new job, a boyfriend, a business opportunity, etc), that if I don't ask for it, God won't give it to me.

The bible is filled with scriptures that tell you "ask and you shall receive" "God will grant the desires of your heart" and "persistently ask God and he will come through for you". So if I'm on my knees daily, begging God for something, and he doesn't give it to me, what then? The answer is then usually "well it wasn't his will", or "that wasn't really a true desire of your heart", and my favorite "someday you'll be glad that didn't happen".

Ok... so if it wasn't his will, aka it wasn't going to happen anyways, then that means there was already a plan in place.... and our asking didn't change anything. It's all a little Calvinistic for my tastes.

My problem with this idea (that God wants us to pray for things in order for them to happen) boils down to two major issues:

1) It puts us in a position of power that is counter-intuitive to the gospel. It gives us control over our lives and almost places God as subservient to our human nature.

2) Some prayers don't get answered, and we are left to answer why. Why? Because you didn't pray right, because you didn't pray hard enough, because you've sinned?

If my child has cancer... will God withhold healing if I don't ask for it? And if I do ask for it... why does he sometimes not answer?

So I get caught in these cycles, and it's frustrating, particularly if you feel surrounded by people who portray an unwavering faith. People who have no problem accepting the gospel verbatim. People who seem horrified any time you question the order of things.


I learned a long time ago to stop asking God for specific things to happen. Instead I always just ask God to give me guidance and to grant me the strength to handle the inevitable outcome. It's worked pretty well for the most part, I've stopped being disappointed at every turn. However, now, as big things are happening, and I do have specific wants... I've realized I have no clue how to ask God for my desires anymore.

I suppose part of it is a vulnerability thing... if I put it all out there and ask God for a specific outcome, I am putting myself in danger of being disappointed, of getting hurt. A problem, considering God is the one 'person' with whom should feel safe. Perhaps that's the heart of the issue, I don't feel safe with God. I've started to doubt this idea that there is a 'bigger picture' and that God has a plan.

That's a topic for a different post.

Today's Topic: I don't know how to ask for things, which was made readily apparent at my small group meeting last week. We were conveniently discussing prayer, which turned into, as it always does, a discussion about how to handle when God doesn't give us what we want. The topic went around and around, centering on how to handle when we are disappointed, how to ask for what is right..... and the answer hit me

We have problems because we're doing this whole prayer thing entirely wrong.

Earlier that night we had all been asked to give our answer to the question "what is prayer" and my answer was "inviting God into my daily life". I very rarely sit down and have a formal prayer "dear god... amen" because I try to actively be aware of his presence thoughout my entire day. It's taken years of work, but I truly feel like most moments there is at least some subconscious part of me that is inviting God in. When I get stuck in traffic, I ask God to help me make it on time, not because I expect him to work miracles, but because Im trying to include him in that moment. When I have moments when happiness fills me to the brim, my first instinct is to say "Thank you God for this moment". When dealing with a difficult patient, I invite God to give me strength and wisdom to deal with that situation.

Yet our discussions about prayer always come back to things for which we ask him.

That wouldn't fly in the real world.

If you had a friend who never did anything but ask you for favors, for money, for gifts, you wouldn't really consider that person a friend.

However, for my close friends, with whom I spend time, who share my life with me, who ask about my day, and who share their secrets with me, a natural byproduct of that relationship is the desire to help each other when necessary.

Maybe our prayers lives are difficult because we don't spend enough time including God into the rest of our lives.


There's an old acronym for prayer:

A- Adoration
C- Confession
T- Thanksgiving

Asking God for what we want is the fourth thing on that list. Prayer is NOT giving God a laundry list of our concerns and needs, and checking them off. Prayer is inviting God into our every moments, and subsequently trusting him enough to go to him when we are in need.  

Prayer is engaging with God
Prayer is allowing God to be present in every moment
Prayer is a relationship

Prayer is also how we commune with others, praying for others takes that relationship to a whole other level.


So I'm going to ask you for prayer. I'm going to ask that you take a moment in your time with God and ask that he grant me discernment in the coming weeks. And I ask for support as I face a time of transition. The next few months will be difficult in a lot of ways, so I ask for your patience if posting is sporadic, and forgiving me for when my online ramblings make no sense.

Not that things making not a lick of sense is anything new around here. 


  1. I know the feeling, a God who created life by speaking it into existence, yet is invisible and silent to us. That's where faith comes in, but it ain't easy.

    Will pray for you tonight for direction and wisdom, hang in there!

    1. Thank you friend, I appreciate the solidarity!


Thanks for taking this journey with me! I always love to hear your thoughts and promise to respond whenever possible.