Monday, January 7, 2013

Conundrums in prayer

Before I close my eyes tonight I'm determined to write about all the jingle-jangle-jumble of thoughts swirling through my brain. I'm splintered in so many directions when I quiet myself to pray these days.

And I begin with a quiet life. That is, I don't awaken to an alarm, race out the door with coffee slopping out of my travel mug, getting my raincoat stuck on the car door because I'm already late and the day's barely began. Deadlines and expectations and quotas and responsibilities and whatever else carves peace from a person's morning doesn't happen here. I roll out of bed with only a puppy as my alarm clock, and pull on a clean pair a pajama bottoms--as much my uniform as a nurse or cop might have as his.

But even in this quiet life, I can feel hard-pressed on every side. All around me are people caught up in life and death situations.  And it causes me to toss and turn and pray in fits and starts. And be troubled in every sense. Because I want GOD to meet these people. I want GOD to intervene in the lives of those who are barely navigating each day in their life-and-death battles. I ask Him to reveal Himself to those who most need Him. That's it. Beve and I have been blessed to have been engaged with many hurting and sick people through out our married lives. From our earliest days, we felt a calling to be what Beve termed, 'burden-bearers.' And in the 30 years since he first coined that phrase, I can hardly count the number of people who have crossed our paths for an hour, a day, a season or longer--all of whom needed shoring up. Having their burdens carried because they were being squashed beneath the heavy load. So He lifted those burdens and gave them to us.

And now when I start to pray, I think of those close to us who face these very deadly situations, and I have a hard time knowing how to pray. Or, perhaps I should say, knowing what God wants for them separate from what they want at their cell level. Their cries are, "Don't let me die!" And that's what they want me to pray. Even the 'they' who don't believe in God at all want me to pray this. But what is most important to God here? It's never the mere physical breathing-in and breathing-out, heart-beating life on this planet that counts to Him. And therefore, our physical health or ill-health is only important in relation to what REALLY counts.
"You must be born again," as Jesus tells Nicodemus.  It's being reborn in Him. Being saved from death not for our sake but for His Sake. Saved for NEW LIFE.  This is what my prayers must be made of, rather than simple petitions for healing.

Others I know are staring down the twin paths in Robert Frost's yellow wood. The choice they make here will make a difference. A profound difference, I think. And these people's decision is swirling around inside my head. I am very different from these people. I know that. And it's been an interesting thing for me to pray for them, particularly in the last twenty-four hours. It reminds me a little of giving gifts, if you'll bear with me for this analogy. The woman counselor Beve works with really wanted an I-Phone for Christmas. Her husband bought her a "CAR-SPA." A car spa? Apparently, it's the nicest detailing job money can buy. Yippee, I thought.
"Did she like it?" I asked Beve.
"I think she did," he told me. "Her husband said it would make the car easier to sell."
"Does she even want to sell?"
"She'd never thought about it."
EXACTLY, I thought. The husband bought a gift HE wanted. He didn't think about her at all.

And sometimes this is what we do when we pray. We think we know what's right for those for whom we're praying. Or we just know what we'd want in the same situation. And this is exactly what we cannot do. We must offer our prayers for those around us as gifts. Not the gifts WE want, or the ones we think they should get. And not like we're the ones giving those gifts at all. We offer our prayers to God, and HE works. We bring requests, supplications and thanksgiving to Him. He reveals His way.

The truth, of course, is that this is exactly how we must approach our most intimate prayers as well.  What will bring new life to our own inner being first? Then what does HE want for us? The goal is to align ourselves with Him so that our desires are His desires and our will HIS will. Then, of course, when we ask HE will do it. It's all about offering ourselves to Him as a gift. As a thank-offering.

This is what brings what Paul calls, "The peaces that passes understanding." It's what will keep me from tossing and turning.  Do you feel confused and overwhelmed by a decision ahead of you? Do you feel you can't see the way through the darkness? Surrender your way and ask Him for His. Then pray for that.

It sounds simple...
But it's not.
It's life-long,
day by day,
a forever work.
Let's get started now.
I'll pray for you, if you pray for me.
That too is what He asks us to do.
It's called being His Bride.

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