Ever been confused by verses on prayer and the unpacking of those where it says to ask and you will receive?
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” John 14:13
“He replied, Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you ” Luke 11:9
We live in a society where we expect things on demand, the over night delivery service isn’t even quick enough for online purchases now, there is a fast track line at shops and airports because patience is not in the DNA of our modern culture. Churches and speakers are making it seem like God is a vending machine where we punch in our order and expect with full confidence for it to unfold just as we want. We create a prayer life that is more similar to wishing with a genie than talking to our Heavenly Father. So it’s no wonder that prayer becomes this confusing, disappointing scenario when we aren’t grounded in the truth of God’s heartbeat within the context of the Bible.
Add into that people telling you that you just don’t have enough faith, you aren’t holding your tongue in the right way as you say the words, you aren’t desperate enough or repeating it as many times as you should, or there must be some big gunk in your life seeing God withhold and we begin to get this very skewed view of God, on prayer and how we fit into all the mistruths that are flying at us. I’ve seen and also experienced the damage this can do.
Now for those of you that are a mum, has your kid asked for a happy meal just as you are driving home to fix them a better dinner? Have they clung at your leg begging for that chocolate bar by the checkout at the supermarket, bargaining and reasoning with you in such a way that you almost cave and then wonder if they will grow up to be a lawyer? In those moments do you deny them because your love has wavered? Do you say no because they just aren’t desperate enough, don’t have enough confidence in you or didn’t stamp their foot to the right instead of the left? The answer is likely a resounding no. It’s because your love for them is solid enough to deal with their tantrums, their confusion and disappointment as you see the big picture and want the best for them. You long for them to grow up to have a character that is good, to be able to function in society in such a way that sees them flourish and have many alongside them, to have healthy bodies that see them go the distance, to be able to make decisions for themselves that are better than if you’ve just given in to their every whim. In order to do that you use your wisdom and experience, your big picture view to see them become wonderful little people but it takes some misunderstandings, stamping of the foot and pleading. However, it likely hasn’t stopped them asking time and again, but over time it may just be packed differently, they may just ask with a desire but be willing to go with what you say.
Now put that experience into a filter that can give you some inkling of God and prayer. See the verses in the context that was given, and weigh up what’s peddled with what is truth. Prayer is where we get to chat to God, a place where we get to align our hearts and minds with His, where we get to pour out the good and bad of our day with a Father and Friend so unconditional and deep in love, so present and pursuing the best for us and Who’s heartbeat is for us in every way that we can begin to see His Fingerprints in the big and small, answering, giving, unfolding, even withholding out of that space.
Now you may recall that I hate flying.
You may also recall that God told me in 2013 that He had many stepping stones for me and I started out as a Children’s leader in the global, in depth bible study God has used to transform my heart and life (www.bsfinternational.org for those wanting to know more and connect in too). Then fifteen months on He moved me to be a group leader with the woman. Eight months after He moved me to be the substitute teaching leader where I got to train the 30 plus leaders, give six workshops to have tools in hand for life and digging into His Word and ways for the class, as well as speaking on the stage to 250 odd ladies about the passage for that week. Three years of that and He has once again moved me on. Each stepping stone is scarier than the last. Each requires more dependence on Him and more surrender of me. And yet I keep saying yes because He’s captivated my heart so much how can I not.
You may also recall that in our almost sixteen years of married life we’ve never had a night apart. It started out because he was more fun than any girl trip on offer. Then with surgeries and hospital stays the fear of night, dark and strangers saw me anxious to have him by my side to protect me as my past of sexual abuse as a child saw me needy. After that nothing seemed worthwhile being apart. Then some pride slipped in that we had achieved such a feat.
The girl that has said never too many times once again ate those words as this next stepping stone I’ve said yes to saw three never’s unfold. I flew to the States by myself. We had our first nights apart…eight in fact. And I will be the teaching leader for our class moving forward.
This is where the intrigue of prayer comes into play. Some of the lovely ladies in leadership asked if I’d like to get together to pray before I flew out. Family and friends who asked what prayer requests I had were surprised none of it was based around the time of training at orientation for such a big task rather it all revolved around my fears and emotions. I wanted us to have a good goodbye at the airport. I wanted all four flights to be smooth and have no turbulence. I wanted to have lovely ladies sit next to be on the flights and not be next to any men.
Well I can tell you that not a single one of those prayers were answered in how I’d asked, wanted, expected. You see I naively thought that if God was taking me this far out of my comfort zone I would be given all I’d asked on a silver platter and then some. Instead what I got was teaching moment after teaching moment of what His heartbeat for me was. Character over comfort, growing over ease, dependence on Him over vending machine ways.
We stood at the departure area of Auckland airport, both trying to deny what was about to be. We hugged and didn’t want to let go. Then I began to sob, begging him not to let me get on that plane. A pit in my stomach so strong I was sure I was going to vomit. God had given me my wonderful babe to teach me love, to show me protection and alongside-ness, to experience joy and adventure. Why did this have to be? Couldn’t we just push recalculate and go home? Instead we hugged, said we loved each other and he turned to walk away. I couldn’t move my feet from that spot they stood and just watched him, requiring everything in me to not chase him and actually allow God to unfold this next stepping stone.
A sweet older lady asked if I was ok. I cried and said no I wasn’t ok. I walked through security at departure and was given kind looks, patted on the back, asked questions and each time that just set me off. I can only imagine what those behind the security screens were thinking, this girl that pulled it together and lost it over and over again. This girl that had many encounters of why I wasn’t ok, but what was being unfolded, how love looked, even being told how to connect in themselves.
I made it to the gate and my granny’s prayer was answered in getting an upgrade to business. 5b was my seat. I made it on the plane and again had to fight the fear that wanted me to flea. I wiped yet more tears and sat there. The phone had to go off so communication with my man was cut off. Then I noticed the man beside me, and the man across the aisle. Where were the lovely ladies God? Off we took and the turbulence that was to be the theme of the flight started. Come bedtime the tears flowed again, with more queries to answer. But in that I got to share and two people said they saw a picture of true love they’d never seen before….both for my man and the pursuit of God.
My next flight was turbulent and I was alongside a man. My flights home were also turbulent and again for the final one I was alongside a man. Certainly not the way I’d wanted any of my three prayers to be answered. And yet as I sit here today I see how God used tears to share truth, stir hearts and display much about love. I see how the four turbulent flights taught me that in the unwanted God is with and for, to be trusted and pursued. In the men beside I saw that fear needs to be replaced with trust, uncomfortable requires further surrender and layers tended to, unwanted sees refinement and oh so much more. There is infinitely more value in God’s ways than our own.
While I do not wish to repeat a week apart from my man, and still don’t love flying I can attest to the goodness of God to do His thing and not just give into my whims. I can see the many fingerprints of God in His provisions, protections, unconditional love, requirement of growth in character, release of fears and so much more. And I can see His balms in the wonderful people I met at orientation, and all the things that unfolded in training to show me He has me and is for me, that alongside is the best place to be even in the fears and please not yet’s. God is so intentional in our hearts, mind and ways aligning with HIS best for us that it doesn’t matter that our requests aren’t answered and packaged as wanted, rather we get to see prayer for what it is. An opportunity to know God, to chat with Him, to ask and see what is to be, to look for those fingerprints of better and trust in the answered, and even the withheld.
God has got you, is for you and with you in ways you can’t even fathom! Where will you get more intentional in your chats, in waiting and seeing? Where will you pursue Him over self? Where will you pick up one bit of truth and throw away one piece of misinformed lie? Where will you think of the heartbeat of God over the watered down, unsatisfactory view that has seeped in? As God’s girls we are in the best place, and how I pray you begin to see your Heavenly Father through a filter that is grounded in truth and establishes you well.