Since today is the National Day of Prayer, it seems appropriate that I take time to jot down a few quick thoughts about prayer. Few and quick, because that is often how my prayer life goes. When I'm worried, I throw up a quick prayer for protection. When the bank account is close to zero, I throw up a quick prayer for provision. You get the idea.
I've joked that if I didn't eat, God would never hear from me.
Over the last few years my prayers have become more frequent. It certainly isn't that I'm more holy. I've simply gotten more needy. Well, that probably isn't true either. I guess the real truth is that I've just realized how needy I am, and more importantly, that on my own, I can't meet all of those needs.
Any of you who haven't known me very long may not know (or believe) that I used to be an extremely independent, proud, and accomplished woman. Not to brag, (well kind of to brag), I started in my field early (see last blog post for details), and quickly found success. The work came easy to me, much like school always had. I won awards. People called me to ask my opinion. I was on my way up. My marriage was the envy of my friends. Even house training our puppy came easily.
Looking back, even as I re-read what I just wrote, I attributed all of my success to, well, me. Sure, I might give God a shout out, along with my parents and my second-grade teacher, but I certainly didn't rely on him for my success. I didn't seek his counsel prior to making big life decisions (thankfully my parents and grandma frequently prayed I would choose a good spouse, because left to my own devices that would have been a disaster). But that is just how I lived. I knew what I was doing, and things generally went my way. There was really nothing to bring me to my knees.
Then I had a miscarriage.
Then the difficult pregnancy of our first and second child.
Then the migraines started, which kicked off a string of health problems that compounded on each other until I finally had to resign from my job.
For the first time in my life, I didn't feel like I was in control. That terrified me. And honestly I think it was that terror that brought me to my knees. If I couldn't control the situation around me, I needed to tell God exactly how He should control it.
And so my prayer life went (and still frequently goes). I used God as a way to feel more in control. Sometimes the answers went my way (as in the case of our second child who tried to come at 20 weeks and miraculously stayed put for 15 more weeks). Frequently, the answers have not gone my way, (as in God please take away this migraine and let me never have one again. Ever).
I'm learning (slowly) that my prayer life isn't really what it should be. And I'm not just talking about frequency. I'm learning that my prayers should not be designed to tell God what He should do, but to ask Him to help me accept His will. I think it is okay that it is a mixture of both. Even Jesus asked that this cup would be passed from him (my translation: if there is any other way to save the world, I would really like not to be beaten to a pulp and crucified). And then he prayed, but not my will but Yours be done.
It is the second part of that prayer I struggle with. To say I struggle with not being in control is so much of an understatement it is almost laughable.
And I am starting to understand this is why God continues to allow situations in my life over which I have no control. For me, it has been my health, but you may find different situations; the death of a parent, betrayal by friends, the loss of a job. It is in those moments, when we are afraid and have no control, that we hit our knees. Even people who don't believe in God will ask you to pray in a desperate situation, just in case.
And so I find myself on this Day of Prayer trying to balance my desires with God's will. Knowing that if my desires were granted (which would mean perfect health for me), I would likely go back to my former place of independence where seeking God's will wasn't part of my plan.
Believe me when I tell you that doesn't mean I want to stay sick. I also don't believe it means that God made me sick. I do believe he is using this time to teach me. One of those things he is teaching me is how to pray. How to listen. How to pray for others with the same intensity I pray for myself. To pray that my kids will also find amazing Godly spouses. To pray they will learn to pray without hitting rock bottom.
And to pray that once I learn these lessons, if control ever seems within my grasp again, I will resist the urge to stand up and grab it, and instead stay on my knees.