Have you ever watched a great battle scene in a movie and imagined what you would do? What kind of strategy would you have? I have and it always involves me playing dead. I would lay on the battlefield and play dead until the enemy passed and then I would cut his Achilles Tendon. I guess that is why I haven't blogged in 3 months. The battle of grief and unanswered prayer is still waging in my life and instead of fighting it I have metaphorically "played dead" the past couple of months- especially when it comes to prayer. I don't know what to pray because I feel like I have said it all in a thousand different ways. God definitely knows the desires of my heart, and part of me thinks He already knows what He's going to do, right? Are my prayers really going to change things? I prayed and cried out to God for a baby and I got Quinn. The night she died in my arms, my entire family cried out for Him to save her, cried out for a miracle and God let her die. And now I have prayed in a million different ways for Him to give us another child and every month I am let down. It is hard not to question if prayer works. It seems this year has been one giant wrestling match with God and I finally yelled "uncle!" That's when the silence came in my prayer life and yet, my questions to God about unanswered prayer have only grown stronger. The issue of unanswered prayer has been tugging at my heart strings so much that I have begun searching like an archaeologist in search of a rare treasure. The Bible verses that have struck me most are:
Then Jesus used this story to teach his followers that they should always pray and never lose hope. "In a certain town there was a judge who did not respect God or care about people. In that same town there was a widow who kept coming to this judge, saying, 'Give me my rights against my enemy.' For a while the judge refused to help her. But afterwards, he thought to himself, 'Even though I don't respect God or care about people, I will see that she gets her rights. Otherwise she will continue to bother me until I am worn out.'" The Lord said, "Listen to what the unfair judge said. God will always give what is right to his people who cry to him night and day, and he will not be slow to answer them."
Then Jesus said to them, "Suppose one of you went to your friend's house at midnight and said to him, 'Friend, loan me three loaves of bread. A friend of mine has come into town to visit me, but I have nothing for him to eat.' Your friend inside the house answers, 'Don't bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.' I tell you, if friendship is not enough to make him get up to give you the bread, your shameless audacity will make him get up and give you whatever you need. So I tell you, ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you. Yes, everyone who asks will receive. And everyone who knocks will have the door opened."
Both of these verses seem to go against everything I know. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So to me- continually saying the same prayer over and over again is insane. Yet, there is a secret in both of these verses that tells us there is something God desires in continuing to ask and I think it lies in what it does to our hearts.
I remember when I was younger I loved the story of Aladdin. A poor boy who stumbles upon a genie in a lamp. Aladdin gets 3 wishes, but in the end, the story is so inspiring because the genie becomes more than a vending machine on steroids, he becomes a friend. The story goes beyond having all our wishes granted into an enduring relationship. How many times have I used God like my own personal genie? And if He doesn't give me what I want, what good is He to me? Like his chief purpose is to grant my wishes. Jerry Sittser writes: "I am learning that my natural inclination is to use God, not to love God. I am like a spiritual junkie. I want the quick fix that answered prayer can provide. Once I get what I want, I return to my normal state of spiritual indolence. Unanswered prayer can actually serve to fan the flame of spiritual desire to know God as my supreme end in life."
Maybe the story of Jacob in Genesis 32:22-32 can teach us something about what God values in the asking. Jacob is about to go back home to face some of the "demons" of his past but the night before he reaches home the Bible tells an interesting story of Jacob wrestling with a heavenly being/God throughout the night until the sun came up. Jerry Sittser finishes the story best in his book When God Doesn't Answer your Prayer: "The divine being finally seized the advantage by putting Jacob's leg out of joint which caused Jacob to limp for the rest of his life. Then he gave Jacob a new name, "Israel." It is a peculiar name, and not particularly complimentary. Yet the name reflects a quality of character that God values. It literally means, 'one who strives with God.' Jacob was a fighter, so that became his name- and not only his name, but also the name of God's chosen people."
Persistence is the key theme interwoven though the middle of each of these stories. Maybe because "it takes one to know one." The Bible is full of stories and parables all leading back to a God that continually chases after his people like a loving groom wooing his wayward bride. Jerry Sittser continues, "That is what God looks for in us. He wants us to strive with him, as he does with us. To wrestle with him as if our life depended on it, because it probably does. To persist in prayer, no matter how much the odds are stacked against us. To refuse to take "no" for an answer from God, just as God has refused to take "no" for an answer from us, no matter how long and hard we have resisted him. It is the least we can do, what God has done for us, what love requires and prayer demands."
So that is my new year's resolution. To pray with persistence. To come before the Lord with "shameless audacity." To convince my God like he daily convinces me and maybe somewhere in the wrestling, something beautiful and unexpected will happen. He will stop being my genie and become my groom. That I will go against my spiritual inclination of using God and start loving God.