Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Call and Answer

“Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. (Jeremiah 33:2-3)"

I wrote about how the Bible shows us that it's okay both to cry and to cry out to God. He is a loving Father who hears His children. I also wrote about how I struggled with all the "whys" surrounding our situation. These formed the foundation for the next lesson God had for me: calling upon the Lord.

You may have heard the term "prayer warrior" before. Generally reserved for women (at least in my experience), the term refers to people who seem to be constantly in prayer or who spend hours before the Lord every day, petitioning the concerns that plague their hearts. These are the first people you ask to pray because you know they will follow through. You can count on their faithfulness. I know a few women I would use this term for, women who are so faithful in prayer and constantly seek the face of the Lord. I used to think about their devotion and sacrifice of their time and wonder how they managed to spend so much time doing something so static. Don't they have things to do? Responsibilities to take care of? Jobs, husbands, children, homes? How do they have time for this?

We always have time for things that are critical. No one has so much to do that they don't sleep a wink for six days straight. If you don't sleep, you die. Anything you have to do has to wait until you get enough sleep to function. Same for eating and drinking and using the bathroom and all those other basic, necessary, life-sustaining activities. Our "responsibilities" take a back seat to these things and no one wonders, "How can you get it all done when you have all that sleeping to do?" It's just the way it is.

For the child of God, prayer should be the same way. God tells us in Jeremiah that if we call to Him, He will answer us and tell us the mysteries we seek to understand. We have a direct line to the One who has laid our paths and directs our lives; any concern we have, He knows before we even speak it (Matthew 6:8). Yet we are told in the Word to pray, again and again. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)" Pray without ceasing; don't ever stop praying. Sounds like a prayer warrior to me. But it isn't just reserved for the random person with plenty of time on her hands. It is "the will of God" for all His children. Why?

I'm not writing a book on the doctrine of prayer, but there are two distinct things God taught me about a life of prayer. The first is that prayer turns our eyes to the One who is in control. The very act of praying acknowledges God's power and gives Him the glory He is due by recognizing that power. Any time I sent out a petition for prayer, I wasn't just saying, "Please remember our daughter." I was asking people to bring her before the only One who had the power to heal. I have faith in God's power and in His love for us, and through prayer, we are reminded of those things. God isn't a cosmic gumball machine, doling out prizes whenever we put in a quarter. He is our Father who loves us, but He is also the one running the show. In prayer, we say to God, "You, Holy God, in Heaven, bring Your will to completion. Provide for us in this way. You have the power to do what we ask. Please, Lord, do." He gets the glory as the One in control (not me). He has the power (not me). So I ask of Him and ask others to ask of Him: use your marvelous power, Lord.

The second thing is that a life of prayer is a burdened life. This might sound kind of backwards and opposed to my first point, but hear me out. If you live a prayer-less life, you either think a) God has no power, b) God doesn't care or c) nothing is really that important. If you have nothing to pray about, you might think God is very small, that He couldn't do anything about what you're facing so there's no point in asking. If you believe God does have power but still you don't pray, you might think that God is up there in His big Heavenly bubble and doesn't care about your life, that He set the world in motion and has the power to intervene, but doesn't care to or wants us to live our own lives free of His control. If you believe God does have power and you believe He does care about us (check and check, you're on the right track) but still you don't pray... then you must not think there is anything in your life worth praying about. This was me. Go about my day, awake, baby awake, feed the kid, eat, do some chores, run some errands, home, eat lunch, relax during nap time, fix dinner, eat, hang out with hubby, watch some TV, bed time, sleep, do it all again. I was just going and doing and not really thinking about any of it. If someone had said, "Is God all-powerful?" I would have said, "Duh." If someone said, "Does God care about your life?" I would have said, "Of course!" If someone said, "Is prayer critical to your life?" I would have said... well, I might have said "yes" but my actions did not reflect that. I rarely prayed, certainly not "without ceasing". So what was the deal?

I was not burdened. My life was pretty good, nothing really wrong, so I was just whistling along, twiddling my thumbs, doing my thing. I believed in God's power and care but I didn't acknowledge them with my lifestyle. I knew there were things to take care of, but I just did them; I didn't need to pray about them. Until -- I encountered a whole host of things that I couldn't take care of. I couldn't heal my baby. I couldn't place her IVs. I couldn't make her create enough platelets. I couldn't help her hear. I couldn't heal her brain. I couldn't make her eat or grow. I felt like I was drowning. All these things that needed fixing and I couldn't fix any of them. My heart filled with burdens, and I began to pray. "God, this and that and everything! Help!" And God answered prayers, miracles raining from the heavens, y'all. Amazing, amazing miracles.

That time of fervent, unceasing, burdened prayer changed me. I guess it made me a prayer warrior? But that's exactly what all of God's children should be. We should all be burdened with the cares of life. We should care about what is happening around us. We should care about our neighbor's sick dog and our friend's baby and our parents' jobs and typhoons in Asia. We should care about the pain and brokenness of the world, the burdens of daily life, and we should lift those cares up to the Healer, Restorer, Lover of our souls. We should pray because these things are important and they deserve our attention and each and every one of them should be brought before the feet of the Father. Even if your life is great, pray and pray and pray. Even if your prayers are all thanksgivings and especially if your prayers are all pleading petitions, pray and pray and pray.

I'm not advocating that anyone feel like they should carry the weight of the world around with them. But life is weighty. Prayer takes our weights, our very real and important burdens (even if they seem so small to us) and places them on the crucified, risen shoulders of Christ. Prayer says, "God is powerful and He cares for us. This life is important. It matters. Therefore, I take this life and offer it over to Him, and I trust. I trust."

We have moved past our time of acute, daily fear and concern for our daughter. For the most part, she is healthy and happy and life is good again. But every day, I feel the burden of this life. The little things, the big things, our things, others' things, and all day, I say, "Lord, Lord, Lord! Look. See. Heal. Change. Redeem." It's everywhere, in the whole world. From the woman you happen to notice crying in the car next to you at a stoplight to your child who doesn't understand why you won't let him hit the dog to your beautiful friend who you desperately want to know Jesus to your coworker who just found out he has cancer. It all has weight. It all matters. And we are to bring it all to the Lord in prayer. Like the woman in Luke 18 who brought her petition before the judge again and again and was rewarded for her persistence, Jesus longs for us to always pray and never lose heart. "Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" God will hear our cries and He will bring justice. But will Jesus find us praying when He returns?

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