Peace family, have you ever been through an experience that left you a little spiritually jaded? Do you ever feel like your prayers don’t seem to matter?
Maybe you went through a time where you lost your faith altogether, or you didn’t lose it, but your relationship with God felt strained as a result.
Several years ago, my younger brother’s life-long best friend (also my friend and coworker), who happened to be the son of one of my mom’s best friends, contracted lung cancer against all odds. His mother was a pediatrician, so he had been raised with a healthy, active life style, eating organic produce, and he had never smoked a cigarette, been around any smokers, or drunken any alcohol. He was a devoted believer in Christ, he loved kids and served faithfully in camps and children’s ministries, and he was a great outdoorsman, thinker, and speaker. Then, the unthinkable happened. Nine months after he got married, they found lung cancer that had metastasized through the bones of his back and body like grape shot. Hundreds of people were praying for him and his wife, and his family felt like he would be healed, but within about 6 months, he died at age 21. I was there with my family a few hours before he died.
That experience was several years ago, but it still colors the struggles I sometimes have with prayer. Sometimes, I feel like God listens when I pray for other people, but the closer a need is to my own heart, the more I struggle to believe that God cares about it, or about me. After my friend’s death, it felt like in any circumstance, God would just do whatever he wanted anyway, no matter how I felt, or how much or how passionately I prayed. I think a lot of people would probably struggle with this.
In a relationship with a normal human, we feel like vulnerability should elicit a response. For example, if you have a family member who has a behavior that is hurting you, and you ask them to stop, you expect them to stop, or to at least try to stop. For them to continue to do exactly what they were doing before continues to hurt you, and additionally hurts you now that you’ve shared the fact that it hurts you, and they’ve ignored it. The logical conclusion is that they are too selfish, they don’t care about your needs, and they don’t love you enough to stop hurting you in that way. We are hurt, we are angry, and our relationship suffers.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this. I know that God is not a genie, and he can do whatever he wants, but sometimes when you’ve been praying about something for more than a decade (I’ve prayed about several concerns for at least that long), or about something as important as a loved one’s life, it can be easy to conclude that God either does not hear, or if he does hear, that he does not care about our heartaches and concerns.
However, God isn’t a human. He is not selfish, and he does not ignore us. We have to wrap our minds around his perspective and trust that his intentions are good, not selfish, when he allows things that hurt us. It feels like injustice, but we must trust that he is a just God.
What’s the takeaway? Do we just stop praying, since it feels like a waste of time?
No, the Bible tells us to keep praying. We know that our prayers are like sweet incense to God, and we know that He tells us to keep asking like a persistent widow. We have to trust that God is good, even when our circumstances and experiences seem to indicate otherwise. We have to trust that God is at work, even if we can’t see it, and that somehow, he is honored by our prayers, and that our hearts will grow closer to him in whatever way we need to grow.
Peace family, if you are struggling with prayer today, why not take the time to tell someone who loves you, who will pray for you, about your struggle? We might not always get the answers that we long for, or in the time frame that we hope for, but we can pray in faith, and trust that he knows best, and really does love us. Let’s take some time to consider the ways he has shown his love and miracles in our lives so far, and let’s try to find greater peace as we give those heartaches and struggles to him and his jurisdiction.