I found it odd that my dear friend would be calling right at dinner time. I better pick this up, my gut told me, it might be urgent. “Bev…(silence)…we’ve lost her,” my friend managed to choke out the words in between fragile sobs.
I couldn’t process what I was hearing. For over ten years, we’d come together to pray for our prodigals — her daughter, my son. Images of her beautiful pixie of a child swirled in my mind. She was like my second daughter — both her girls were. Giggling girls skipping rope flashed on my memory’s home-movie screen. Elaborate plays with homespun costumes entered, stage-left, into my mind’s eye. These three musketeers, founding members of the Official Rodent Club, gleefully practiced clogging routines on planks of plywood in the garage, and galloped through sprinklers in the sweltering southern summers. I could see her impish grin as she licked her favorite blue-raspberry popsicle, flitting to-and-fro in my family’s back yard.
“Her friend discovered her body in her apartment,” my friend went on, “after she hadn’t heard from her for a couple of days…. It was a drug overdose.” My heart plummeted to my stomach and I fought the urge to vomit. This couldn’t be happening — we’d prayed earnest, down-on-bended-knee prayers for years and we’d talked about what a testimony it would be when our prodigals turned their hearts away from substitutes, back to the Lord, and wandered down the dusty path of repentance, back home again. This was NOT the answer we’d prayed for!
My mind immediately catapulted to my son. If my friend’s prayers had been answered in this horrendous way, I had to face the unthinkable fact that my son may not find his way back home either. How could you answer this way? I shrieked at God! We had prayed, prefacing our prayers with “If it is your will, God….” How on earth could this be His will? In that moment I was jolted to the sober realization that just because we pray doesn’t mean we get our way. The purpose of prayer is not to persuade God to follow our plan; it’s meant to usher us into the sacred inner sanctum of our Heavenly Father’s presence.
It’s okay if you want to slam this book shut right here and now…I would’ve too! I know it may not be what you want to hear just yet, and that’s okay. I couldn’t give these precepts (the ones I want to walk you through) credence in the crucible of pain, either…it took time…lots of time. Will you hang in there with me and walk with me?
Jesus, in His grief, before His gruesome crucifixion, approached His loving Father with this prayer:
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:41–42 ESV)
Dear one, God’s will for your prayer is meant to draw you close in His loving embrace. He is right there with you in the deepest, darkest midnight of your grief. Weep with Him and He will carry the bone-crushing yoke of the awful burden you cannot bear alone. I’ve lost count of the myriad of times I’ve gone to God, eyes red and swollen, and ribs tender from emptying my agony before Him. God longs for you to surrender the outcome of every prayer you utter to His capable and all-knowing sovereignty. There are no points awarded for stoicism. Love (God’s very essence) will guide you through the valley one step, one day, one prayer at a time, into His loving arms. You can count on that.
Together, let’s grapple with two hard-to-accept guiding faith principles we can’t ignore. They are:
- The power of sin is prevalent. We live in a fallen world tainted by sin.
- God gives everyone (including our loved ones) free will. If our prayers moved others like puppets in God’s hands, then that would deny the very first gift God gave Adam and Eve.
God answers prayers and God is still in the business of performing miracles, but sin in the form of rebellion, sickness, disease, pride, and even death is all part of this earthly existence. God answers prayers in so many unexpected ways, but the existence of sin has repercussions and consequences.
You and I can ask God to turn His heart to our loved ones, which He will willingly do, and He will show mercy to them. But, when we ask our loved ones to turn to the Lord, it is an act they must choose to perform. They must exert their own free will for change to happen. God continually woos His beloved children, but our prayers can’t force them to accept His love and grace. Nor can they force obedience. Those we pray for, must act on their own free will — the free will their loving Creator gave them.
Our prayers for our children hadn’t been answered in the way we thought they should be. My adult son is still adrift, following sin’s siren call. So, why keep on praying? Where’s the hope in praying? Do our prayers matter?
I invite you to join me, next week, for the next excerpt entitled: Learning to Pray Deathless Prayers. If you'd like to be sure to receive future excerpts in this series then SUBSCRIBE to my blog (and nothing else). Thanks for reading...