faith, personal

True Prayer Takes Courage

Have you ever found yourself so obsessed with an idea that your prayer becomes like the monologue of a villain in a cartoon?

Because I do that constantly.

In my season of life, so many of my prayers are a reflection of my desire to live out my vocation. I pray a great deal for my future husband and what my life will and should look like when I meet him; and this causes a great blindness in my spiritual journey. Tunnel vision overcomes me to the point where I become the proud earthly patroness of the high and mighty. Lord, I scoff, pacing around my lair, striking up some divine deal, I know you’re the omniscient one, but trust me. I know I could change the world if I had a partner. Just give me one and you’ll see. Oh. You’ll see. 

It’s because of this radical notion that I know better than the Lord who created me–whose own breath gives me life itself–that I so often end up disappointed and wondering if He really is listening at all. Because I get to a point that I’m not praying for His guidance or His will; I’m asking Him to use His power to create the life I envision for myself. And that isn’t the surrender we’re called to. This is a lesson I learn often, and each time I learn it, it comes packed with more pain and more punch. But also, more power.

Here’s what happened this week (already, and it’s only Tuesday night). I found this old prayer I used to pray all the time. It goes like this:

Lord, I am willing for you to make me willing. For your will to be the desire of my heart.

And I thought to myself, Gosh, that’s a great prayer. Why did I ever stop saying it? So I scribbled it onto a sticky note and I posted it on my bedside lamp, knowing I would see it the minute I woke up and I could pray it immediately. This prayer would guide my day. Monday morning came, I opened my eyes, read the prayer . . . and in the course of the next 24 hours, my world turned over. Prayers I’ve been offering up for the life I wanted God to be giving me were suddenly, gloriously revealed to be not part of my path at all. In a spectacularly terrible day, friendships and plans and prayers that I’d been hanging my hat on for months were all pulled out from under me; and I remembered why I stopped praying that prayer above.

Because true prayer takes courage. And I am afraid.

It’s true; prayer takes faith, and patience, and quiet, and time, and intention. But the truth that I forget so often is that prayer–true, authentic, reckless abandon-type prayer–takes courage. There is a divine bravery that all of us are called to when we give our hearts over to God. A friend and I spoke today about the heart when it comes to faith–we cannot and are not called to give only a part of our heart. We’re meant to give the whole heart over.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; on your own intelligence, rely not.

Proverbs 3:5

Intelligence is a currency in our world. It’s how we prove so much of our earthly worth. We tie a lot of our value into how smart we are; how much we know about things; how little we need the help or insight of the people around us. And it’s this obsession with being right and being informed that leads us to a place where we are calling the shots in our prayer life, instead of praying for an abandonment to God’s plan for us.

A few years ago, I led a women’s group, and one of the most fruitful discussions came from this question:

What would your life today look like if God had answered every prayer the way you wanted him to?

That question is so powerful, it bears repeating.

What would your life today look like if God had answered every prayer the way you wanted him to?

And the thing is, I know it’s a jarring question because I remember the looks on the faces of all those women. The slow blinking of eyes as the magnitude of that question sunk in. By this point in our lives, none of us wanted what we had once prayed so fervently for. We collectively realized that despite our smartest, most thought-out plans and prayers we’d once cried and monologued for at the foot of the cross were actually nothing compared to the glory of what came when we didn’t get what we wanted.

Listen, I’m not saying that’s the case with all fervent prayer. In many cases, we pray for change or for people or for opportunities to come into our lives that really need to be there, and play an important role. But I think just as often, if not more often, we pray for what we believe is right for us in the moment. Even if the intentions are wonderful, it’s so easy to get caught up in the beauty of what we could do if God would only open that door. And just like I’ve written about before, there’s great joy in letting a God who loves us burn away the dead brush so that a new harvest can grow and thrive.

So, pray. Pray with conviction. Pray with courage. Pray when it’s difficult and it’s not going how you want, and it feels like your intellect is worthless. Pray with your heart. Not some of your heart, but your whole, entire heart. Not because it may yield something you really want, but because it will yield something that God really wants for you. And that, my sisters and brothers, is what we were created for.

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