There are a lot of stumbling blocks that keep us from fully connecting with God, and unanswered prayer is, for me, the most difficult one. You might be one of those people who can easily accept the “sometimes the answer is no, maybe, or not yet” explanation – and I have no problem with you doing that – but that doesn’t satisfy my sense of loss every time I would pray, and God would seem silent. I say “seem” because I do not know what God is thinking or doing; this is my personal interpretation. It always felt to me that God was ignoring my needs, and that seems, to be honest, kind of rude. Don’t tell me that if I ask for anything in the name of Jesus it will come true and then not follow through. That is how I used to feel in the more immature iterations of my faith journey.
Julian of Norwich, the deeply spiritual mother of the church in the 14th century, wrote that we don’t pray for or to, but with God. Prayer isn’t some kind of candy dispenser or magic trick; prayer is a way to find direction. We pray to help others and bring them strength and comfort. Spiritually mature prayer doesn’t ask for things; it asks for guidance. When, as a child, I came to this conclusion, I didn’t have Julian’s deeply theological words. All I knew is that there was either something wrong with God, or there was something wrong with the way I had been taught about God. I chose door number 2.
I got a parent very angry once when I told our confirmation class (which included her daughter) that I didn’t know how prayer worked, but I kept on doing it. I pray for others, so they know they are not alone. I pray for the ability to do the hard work and make the hard choices and say the challenging words that might change the hearts and minds of others. I pray before, during, and after I write these thoughts every morning. I pray that, as the old pre-sermon preacher prayer goes, “May the words of my mouth, and the inspiration of my heart, be acceptable to You. O God.” Not to me or anyone reading these words, but to God. Jesus was clear about that; God is the audience, not the paying (or not) public.
You can keep praying for miracles, and I will pray right along with you. You can pray for healing, and I will say “Amen.” But don’t pray for stuff; success, wealth, or power. These are selfish prayers, and I am pretty sure that God doesn’t even pay attention to those. Prosperity praying is as bad as prosperity religion; it has nothing to do with God and everything to do with theological narcissism. But have no fear; I will pray for anyone you need me to pray for. Because we are in this thing together, and our prayers for each other are meant to lift us up and give us hope. I got your back. I hope you have mine.
Prayer – We offer our prayers to You this morning in hopes of a day of strength and Spirit-filled words and actions. Amen.
Today’s art is “Serenity Prayer” by Michel Keck.