So, last week M’s house was auctioned. Like so many things here, it was a complicated story. In fact, I don’t even think I understand totally what happened…seriously like a soap opera, there were so many twists to the plot. At the end of the day (literally), in the last 5 minutes of the auction, the other non-family bidders had finally been pleaded/bribed away, and the house was auctioned to a nephew of one sister using another sister’s money. It will still be sold so that two of her debts can be paid instead of one. But for now, M., her husband and her sons can stay in her house until it is sold. Confused??
I still don’t understand so much of how things like that go here…
But, it got me thinking about something else I don’t understand often.
I had a big conversation with the kids and Julie at the table the other morning about prayer. How should we pray about M and her family? Clearly we should PRAY…
But should it be for the auction to have been miraculously cancelled?
For someone to have bought the house with the intention to gift it back to them?
For everything to go “well” for M and her family?
(those would be easy prayers to pray and hope for with nice “neat” solutions)
For her husband to truly feel God’s hand blessing them so that he might change his life and become a follower?
For them to lose their house but in the process gain Christ?
For God’s will?
I have to confess I struggle with these things. Often I cringe when I get “gropu prayer requests” by email…they aren’t bad, they are petitions by people on behalf of friends and family that they love dearly, but the prayer requests often seem to be an attempt to manipulate God into doing what we want Him to do. (notice who gets the lower case letter and who gets the upper case letter in that last sentence…). Is that what prayer should be?
I try to imagine when praying standing before God having a conversation…would I have the nerve to stand face to face with the creator of the universe with a laundry list of things I want Him to do for me?? I am pretty sure I know how well it would go if I stood in front of Matt, to have a conversation with the man I love with all my heart, and just started rattling off the things I had for him on my honey-do list!
But it seems to me that’s what we do with God…
Please let my 97 year old great aunt Thelma’s finger heal so she can play chopsticks at the annual talent show at the senior center next week. Please bless our neighbours new house. Please heal Frank’s leg. Please let the fundraiser make lots of money.
And yet, we are told to pray ‘Our father in heaven, holy is your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6: 9-13). Matt and I were super impacted once when we heard someone say “we’re so busy praying people out of heaven that we are not praying people out of hell”
Too busy praying believers out of heaven to pray unbelievers out of hell…seems way backwards doesn’t it?
But, those sorts of prayers aren’t the nice neat ones for the “Christian Team” where everyone has a happy ending according to our desires (on earth) are they?
I challenged the kids as we were eating to try and think of examples from the Bible where God blessed someone greatly, and in turn they repented and changed their lives to follow Him. Blessed them greatly with ‘good’, with ‘health’, with financial ease… We were having trouble finding examples…Jonah? No. The Israelites? No. It just doesn’t seem to be that way.
Sort of like us as parents. We had an issue with someone not wanting to tell the truth last week. Unfortunately his consequence was missing out on a VERY random but yummy dinner of apple crisp and brownies (we were celebrating Carnaval!). Oh, how I wanted to let him enjoy the goodies with us. But that wouldn’t help him see there were consequences to his actions. By allowing our children to experience the consequences of their actions, they are given the opportunity to learn and grow. No matter how painful it is as parents, we have to watch them go through hard lessons so that they can learn and in turn be blessed by growth, maturity and the ability to navigate adulthood someday.
Just like we endure discipline from our heavenly father:
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? (Hebrews 12:7).
So back to prayer.
Does praying for everything to go ‘well’ with the auction and for M’s family to keep the house ignore the greater work that God wants to do in the lives of M. and her family?
Yesterday, I SO wanted to wave my magic wand and have God fix everything for them according to my plan.
But there is so so so much wrong in that thought process!!!
With the four kiddos from Sauces, we wanted to pray so many things. We had so many solutions that in our minds were “great”, ideal even. But our view is minuscule compared to God’s view of the entire universe over and through eternity. So, we prayed that He would put them in the best possible living situation. Not to try to manipulate Him into doing what we wanted Him to do (who are we kidding???), but that His will would be done and that he would keep them safe.
How should we pray then?
We are told to pray continuously (1 Thess 5:17)
To give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess: 5:18)
And…there are several verses that say we will receive what we ask for in prayer (Matthew 7:7-8, John 14:14, Matthew 21:22)…BUT I still don’t think that we can manipulate God into doing what we want no matter how hard or how many of us pray, if those prayers fall outside of His will. That is not how Jesus taught the disciples to pray when we read in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4. Instead, it seems to me that our prayers need to align themselves with God’s will for our lives, with His idea of what is good for us, and with His plan which isn’t always pain-free, easy, or for ‘happily-ever-after’ solutions.
I take comfort in knowing that according to psalm 139:16:
You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
Nothing is a surprise to God. Not even our prayers. Not even my confusion about them. Phew.
Help me understand what it means to glorify and honor you with my prayers Lord. Give me a heart that is growing more and more to understand and seek your will in every situation, and to give thanks in every circumstance. Amen.