So my family has been battling colds and coughs and stuffy noses for almost two now. Every. Last One. Of us. Our Kleenex and Ny-Quil expenses deserve their own line item listings on our budget! We don’t feel well. No fevers or flu symptoms, just runny noses and congestion. We are sick and tired of being sick and tired. I don’t tell you this to gain your sympathy or for your contributions to our medications. I don’t tell you this with any assumption that our week was worse than yours.
I tell you this because even though I have prayed and prayed that my kids wouldn’t be sick or that I could, please God, stop breathing through my mouth – despite my prayers, my family is still sick.
Does this mean that God quit answering prayers in California? Specifically in San Luis Obispo? On Gulf Street? Just my home?
No. He still answers prayers. It doesn’t always feel like it, though. I pray, mainly, because Jesus told me to.
I don’t understand prayer. I don’t know why one prayer is answered and another isn’t. At 2:37, after hearing my poor daughter coughing for the last 90 minutes, I pray again, “God, I know you heal sick kids. I read about it in the Bible. Please heal my little girl and help her stop coughing.” There’s silence in the other room, long enough that I start to doze off again. Thank you, God. Then she coughs like a pack-a-day smoker for the next hour. Thanks for nothing, God. I go to work blurry-eyed from a lack of sleep the next day and hear about how a coworker prayed for their friend with a mass in their neck, and the next week the doctor couldn’t find the mass at all. Seriously? What happened to my prayer? Why did God choose to answer hers and not mine? I don’t believe in special incantations that have to be repeated to woo God into our accord. I don’t think God plays favorites. But why are some prayers answered and some not? Although the main reason I pray is out of obedience, an answered one in a time of need would sure keep me coming back to my knees more often!
Maybe you’d argue that the only common denominator is coincidence. It was just a coincidence that the mass was gone; the doctor misdiagnosed the first time. Or you’d argue that it’s a total luck of the draw; it’s a cosmic roll of the dice, and God will do what He does with or without my prayers. Or maybe you’d argue that prayer is a superstitious action; a mantra that is recited to create a false sense of spirituality. Argue all you want. I pray ‘case Jesus told me to, and still don’t get what goes into some prayers being answered and not others. It makes me wonder, and sometimes makes me question the action I obediently bring to God.
What I do realize, though an act of obedience, healing and health are my only goal in mind when I was pray for healing for my family. That’s it. I just don’t want to be sick or around sick. Intercession is a part of biblical prayer. I pray for God to intervene in lives and situations all the time. I go to God out of obedience and expect Him to answer. And I want the answers that I propose; that my kids quit coughing or that I can, please God, breathe through my nose today.
So what’s wrong with that? Perhaps answers are not the conclusion of a prayer. Perhaps answered prayers are simply to tell me, “You thought that was good? I have even more in store for you.” But often the only thing I have in mind is for God to make me happier and healthier and even wealthier. It’s not a pursuit of relationship that draws me into petitionary prayer, rather is a pursuit of convenience. Nothing beyond my need is in my sights. I want a miracle right now. And if it doesn’t come… Well, I’m not thinking of the things I should be content with or the better days ahead.
But what if I did? Jesus was asked to perform miracles one time, as if He was a streetcorner magician. He told the people, “What’s the point? You’ll only see a cool trick and it won’t change how you feel about Me or My Father. Your actual faith won’t be affected because you’re only looking for entertainment!” If I am focused on just an answer when I pray, am I any better off than the people He said that to? What if I obediently prayed, only expecting to be heard by One who loves me and my family more than I can imagine? What if I obediently prayed only expecting to be with Jesus for a while? Not a bad notion. I mean, I talk about my life and struggles with others, not worrying about what they’ll do about it. Sometimes it’s just good to get hings off my chest.
But then there’s the whole “fervent prayer” and “come to the Father boldly” and “make your requests known to Him” and “whatever you pray in My Name” passages. How do these play out? One could argue that expecting a certain answer is also biblical. I guess it boils down to motive for me. I want my prayers to move Heaven. I REALLY want them to. But is my motivation to move God, or for Him to move in me?
See, prayer is a tricky thing, isn’t it? Why do you pray?