Tuesday, March 8, 2011


if i'm being completely transparent here, i need to tell you that my prayer life hasn't always been the greatest.  in fact, it's probably been the most poorly trained of the spiritual disciplines in my life.  i'm easily distracted, i haven't always made time with the lord a priority, and in all honesty, i've struggled to see the correlation between prayer and god's movement at times.

do i like sharing this?  not in the least.  but it's important for me to do so in order to tell you what the lord has so graciously shown me over these past few months.

this was the picture that i posted on the night of thursday, august 12, 2010.  it was izzy, of her own accord, kneeling on the bedroom floor praying for her very sick brother, judah.

he died the next day.

now at two years old isabel had not yet been drawn to the lord or seen her need for his saving grace.  but i, as a believer, was on my face praying the exact same prayers of healing for my infant son who died hours later.  what does that say about prayer?  but more than that, what kind of god would do such a thing as take the life of a child from his praying mother?

the kind of god who would take the life of his own son to save his created children. 

"yet it was the lord's will to crush him (jesus) and cause him to suffer.  he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."  (isaiah 53: 10, 5)

i didn't even realize it at the time, but during the previous few years, i had fallen into the trap of "comfortable christianity".  i was content to cruise along on autopilot, scarcely needing to cry out to the lord for much at all; my faith was culturally normative, and it didn't cost me too much of anything.  the problem with that is that according to jesus christ himself, that's no faith at all (matthew 16:24-25).  i haven't shared this publicly before, but realizing a disconnect of sorts, i began praying in the early summer of 2010 that god would work in my life - through whatever means necessary - to bring me to my knees and to restore the intimacy of our relationship.  and while the events that unfolded that august were not at all what i would have chosen for myself, i know for a fact that god brought them about to answer that very prayer. 

yes, i realize that might be a tough pill to swallow.  but i believe with every ounce of my being that the lord took judah's life for my good and for his glory (romans 8:28).  how could any of that be "good", you ask?  by human standards, it's not and it never could be.  the events of that august were ugly, they brought heart-wrenching pain, and out of them i walked a terrible and dark path for many months.  but the americanized or worldly version of "good" is far from the "good" that the lord desires for his people - which is being conformed to the likeness of his son (v. 29).  lord, i pray that that is taking place in my life.

"'for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the lord.  as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what i desire and achieve the purpose for which i sent it.  you will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.  this will be for the lord's renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed."  (isaiah 55:8-13)

so if god's going to do what he's going to do regardless, what's the point of praying?  follow along...

there are many passages in scripture that address god's faithfulness to answer our prayers, and it's through prayer that god accomplishes the fulfillment of his will.  just in the gospel of john alone we hear that "you may ask me for anything in my name, and i will do it" (14:14), "ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  this is to my father's glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (15:7-8), and "the father will give you whatever you ask in my name" (15:16 and 16:23).  so if we pray for something earnestly "in jesus' name", doesn't the lord promise to answer in the way we prayed for him to?

not at all.

it's not so much that as believers we're praying in jesus' name as it is we're praying with jesus' heart.  as you saw above, god's been using a long chain of events to draw me closer to him and to (prayerfully) make me more like jesus.  one of the most amazing byproducts of that transformation in a believer's life is that his heart begins to care less about immediate comfort or desire and more about matters of eternity and the glory of god.  so in reality, praying in jesus' name has nothing to do with slapping a moniker on the end of a god-chat; rather, it has everything to do with truly knowing the lord and desiring his glory.

so, do i know it's god's desire for us to pass court on friday?  no, i don't.  so then how precisely is our family praying for the end of this week?  let me back up a little in romans 8.  verse 27 tells us that "the spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with god's will."  we've got great comfort in knowing that even when our prayers feel like they're sometimes floundering around in uncertainty, the holy spirit is perfecting them before our holy god.  we may not know the eternal, perfect will of the lord, but he does.

secondly (and this has been a much harder heart-stance to adopt), we are doing this:

"do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to god."  (philippians 4:6)

that little "with thanksgiving" phrase is quick to read, easy to say - but sometimes so difficult to pray.  praying with thanksgiving means that i am to praise god, even now, for how he will answer regarding our court date on friday.  if we pass, i praise him.

if we don't pass court but rather wait indefinitely to hold our son again, i praise him.  

and why do i do this?  because he's proven that he will move in sovereign ways that are ultimately for my good and for his glory.  i've seen it.  it's my life.

please understand, my friends, that this isn't something i just took upon myself to start doing.  i want my baby home.  my heart aches terribly for his presence.  but how can i walk away from the incredible working of the lord in my heart (through judah's death) and not trust in god's sovereign and perfect plan?   

"this is the confidence we have in approaching god: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  and if we know that he heard us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him."  (1 john 5:14-15)

we're praying fervently and expectantly for our court date on thursday night here and praying equally intently for god's glory everywhere.  please join us?

(also, please take one minute - i promise that's all it takes - to sign this petition to prayerfully change the course of adoptions in ethiopia.)


Giann said...

Amen! Praying!

and if you really want to enhance your prayer life, I have the book for you, Wrestling Prayer by Eric and Leslie Ludy. yeah. I'll be wrestling for ya! :)

Anna said...

i love your heart, and i'm so blessed to call you my friend! what a testimony you are of thanksgiving! eucharisteo, right? grace. thanksgiving. joy. in all circumstances. not just some. every. single. one. praying for you and so thankful the holy spirit sorts it out for us! love you!