I don’t like prayer.
There. I said it.
Why, you ask?
If I have a bad day at work I can come home and ask my wife for a hug. Immediately she will throw her arms around me and tell me it’s going to be okay. If my car breaks down I can go to a mechanic who will look under the hood and within an hour will tell me what’s wrong. If I’m sick I can go to the doctor and that same afternoon I will get a response about my diagnosis and get a prescription to make me feel better. If I’m hungry I can go to Wendy’s and get a tasty #2 value meal within 5 minutes. In each of these situations I have a need, a hunger, or a problem and I can get a response within a short period of time.
Then there’s prayer and God’s response time.
Let’s just say it leaves something to be desired. When you and I have heartache or loss we want the Lord to be with us in the time it takes to get a meal from a fast food restaurant. We want answers to our questions in the time it takes to send a text message. Our friends and loved ones answer quickly, so why not God? Our society is geared around quick and efficient responses, so why doesn’t the Lord work in the same way?
He doesn’t though. I know parents who have prayed for years for their wayward children to return to God and to their families, but nothing has happened, (yet). I have friends who have cried out in their pain, with tears rolling down their eyes, but God does not answer in a timely fashion. In my own life I can think of prayers which I prayed for over 10 years with nothing to show in return, (as far as I can see). If my friends called to me for help and I acted the way God did, then I wouldn’t have many friends. If my wife poured out her heart to me and I ignored her tears then I would consistently be sleeping on the porch. So how is it that God can act in ways which we could never get away with? Is this how he shows he cares for us? With silence?
And yet we’re called to pray! We’re called to engage in an activity where we typically get no sudden response and our needs are not met, (seemingly). How crazy is that?
At this point the writer in me feels the temptation to tie this up in a neat little bow with a helpful theological answer, but that just wouldn’t be honest. I don’t understand prayer or God’s ways. All I can say is I’m learning. I’m learning prayer is so far beyond my own perception and expectation. It involves waiting, sometimes a very long time, and trusting God knows what he’s doing as I wait. I’m learning it means pouring out my heart to Him and trusting that He loves me, even if he doesn’t respond like my wife or friends would. It means continually coming and asking, like the widow in Jesus’ parable, even when God appears to be like the disinterested judge. I’m learning his response time is not on par with the 21st century, maybe with good reason.
I’m learning to cling to truth in the meantime, that He has made everything beautiful in his time, (not mine). He allows us to feel like we’re drowning, like David in the Psalms and the disciples in Mark 4, so we can be drawn closer to Him and know him in a deeper and more profound way. I’m learning not to trust myself, my feelings, or my thoughts, because they will deceive me. I’m reminded of how much I need solid men and women to speak truth into my life when I doubt God’s goodness. I’m learning to remind myself of truth through God’s Word, that He loves me and He’s better at running the universe than I am.
In the meantime the waiting still stinks, and I still don’t like it.