So Rachel Held Evans died. (Please see previous post) She was 37 and leaves a husband and two children – one of them not even one year old yet. She died of complications from flu. The Internet is full of people grieving for her – people who have benefitted from her sisterhood, her writing, or her ministry. I would like to add myself to that list. There are also the people who have prayed unceasingly for her healing.
There are also people who are putting articles on the Internet along the lines of “How does one react to the death of an apostate?”I will confine myself to noting that anyone who reacts with that kind of sentiment when a young mother has died, may possibly have no idea about anything Jesus ever said. (Disclaimer – these opinions are my own as you well know)
Prayer is a tricky subject. Petitionary prayer even more so. One one hand, there is the “Ask Anything And You Shall Have It” gang. On the other, the “Hold The Things You Desire Very Loosely Just In Case God Says No” people. This is all very well and good but when we seem to have been taught that faith is essential to prayer, it is difficult negotiating how to ask for things believing God wants us to have them and then trying to maintain a peace that God knows best and if he says no or makes us wait, then all will be well.
I don’t think any of you are here because you think that I have any answers. I most certainly do not. However, I have had a wander around some books and a few Dallas Willard sermons and have reminded myself of the following…
There is no such thing as a prayer that hits the ceiling and doesn’t reach God. Because God is under the ceiling – with us – involved, laughing, mourning, training, raising an eyebrow and saying “Really?”. Prayer is God’s day to day entry into our lives, as it is our entry into him. If it’s working properly, it is happening often, in our designated places and times as well as on the hoof. But the truth is that, even then, sometimes things don’t go as we ask and I seriously don’t know why.
Faith is also essential for prayer. Faith that we are heard. Faith that our best interests are at God’s heart and faith that God is not too small and that he is able. It is this faith that allowed Jesus to sleep in a boat in the middle of a storm while the disciples screamed at the top of their voices and ran up and down the boat doing hysterical jazz hands. (This is a perfect picture of how I react in a crisis as opposed to how I should react in a crisis) This was then followed by the disciples screaming “Don’t you even care?” (Also me)
We have to square the reality that not all petitions are answered with the equal reality of a caring God. I didn’t say it made sense. The thing that has made it a bit easier for me is realising that my relationship with God is a two-way street. Obviously, I say all the time that Jesus is my friend but I also have to get hold of the fact that I am his friend. He looks at me and sees his friend. This’s who I am to him. That’s what I am worth. And if that’s how he sees me then I have to try to trust his judgment when it comes to how he cares for his friends