When You Pray, Be Ready For Change
The other night I had a hard conversation with God.
I stood outside in the cool night air, staring up at the stars with the moon rising, and a gentle breeze blowing in my face. I figured it was a good time to pray.
I know that it was irrational but the lack of clouds in the sky seemed to be an indication to me that perhaps there would be fewer impediments to my petition. You know, because God is up in the sky... 😉
Anyway, it felt right in the moment to turn my gaze skyward toward the cloudless night sky, and begin berating God with the following:
"Are you even there? Because it feels kind of like you're not. Or if you are... then you're just screwing with me... or you just don't care, which is probably not the case, but still it sort of feels like it right this second. I've been praying a lot lately, but my prayers just seem to be drifting off into the ether along with my hope for things to be better... because they don't seem to be getting any better. So, if you could show up and fix it all, it might make my job of telling people that you're out there and in control of all of this mess a hell of a lot easier... Amen... I guess."
I stood there listening for some kind of response, or a shooting star, or a talking bird to land on the tree in front of me and tell me something profound. Nothing.
I closed my eyes and listened harder. A dog barked off in the distance. An owl hooted. The breeze that I could feel on my face made the wind chimes in the yard sing softly in a strange kind of harmony with one another. A neighbor kid was practicing their piano playing, and the sweet sounds of halting, stop and start piano music filled my ears.
The world around me was speaking, and I tried hard to understand what it was saying, but all I could do was feel it. And it felt... wonderful. In that instant, all I wanted to do was sit there feeling the breeze on my face and letting the sounds of the night surround me.
I knew that nothing about my circumstances had changed and that I would probably be back to worrying about them again in the morning, but for a while at least I just felt at peace.
I read this line the other day from Philip Yancey's amazing little book entitled The Question That Never Goes Away. He was writing about prayer, and how easy it is for us to get our perspective out of kilter when we begin worrying about the state of the world around us. Yancey writes:
We’re more concerned with how things turn out. God seems more concerned with how we turn out.
The funny thing is, I have even more to worry about right this second than I did the other night. There I was thinking that things couldn't get any worse than they were at the moment, and I had no idea what was coming.
As I write this, my family is quarantining because my middle child tested positive for COVID. He is sequestered off in a section of the house away from everyone else, and even though the rest of us all tested negative, we're worried and tired, and emotionally drained.
Everyone is doing okay, and no one is in danger, which is good. But still---we're all feeling a bit gutted by it all.
But I'm remembering that feeling the other night, and longing for it once again. I know that I'm not alone in the universe despite the fearfulness that plagues me from time to time.
If I close my eyes, I can recall in vivid detail that feeling I felt with the night breeze on my face, and the plaintive sounds of piano keys drifting toward me. Those kinds of moments are happening all around me---all of the time.
God is not making it easy to believe... but then God makes it easy to believe... or maybe it's just us finally getting it, feeling it, understanding it more clearly. God is present in the world. God is speaking peace over us.
Because what needs fixing more than any of our circumstances... is us. What needs changing more than the obstacles we're facing... is us. What needs to be made better and more whole... is us.
And if we are willing to do what is needed to be transformed then all of the rest of it seems to change along with us, if that makes sense. We become the answers to our own prayers, which is how God seems to prefer things.
May this be true for you today and every day forward and for all time. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.