Prayer can be a bit scary. If I am asking for patience or courage, I know God may have me experience a circumstance or series of circumstances that will enable me to develop the characteristics I need to build patience or become courageous. I can’t simply mimic the behaviors of a courageous person to be courageous because no two situations demanding courage are identical and no two people needing courage are alike. Courage is a set of character traits that set into motion behaviors that deny self for the good of the whole at the juncture of certain events in light of certain circumstances. The number of ways these variables can combine to bring forth courage is, quite possibly, endless.
Prayer is also scary because we do not know what the outcome will be. We know God is good. We know God loves us. We do not know what He will do. I heard someone explain that the reason God’s answer is best is because He has all the information. If we are watching the parade of life, we see it as if we were looking through a knot hole in a wooden fence. God sees over the fence. He sees the whole of life from beginning to end. Many times, from our perspective, it doesn’t look like God knows what He is doing. Certainly, the day Jesus died on the cross, it didn’t look good for the kingdom of God from a human perspective. Those who have walked with Him some distance, however, come to realize He does know what He is doing. For example, if you’ve harvested crops, you know that planting tiny seeds in the ground can produce enough food to feed thousands. That’s really a miracle!
Prayer is scary because we don’t want to miss God. Bob Pierce, the director of World Vision, is known for his saying, “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.” I think that is the heart cry of all Christians who truly want to serve the Lord. We want what is best for others, but we do not want to presume what that is. After all, we are looking through a knot hole in the fence! I vividly remember the 9/11 attacks on America in 2001. When those twin trade towers were hit by two planes, all normal life stopped as people were glued to their television sets. That September I had sent a half dozen college students to study in Belize, Central America. The big news story down there was Hurricane Iris. It was wiping out Honduras. There were huge mud slides covering whole villages. When news came that the hurricane was heading toward Belize I began to pray that it would stop, lose its power and leave them alone. The hurricane stopped off the coast of Belize, but did not wind down so it just kept scooping water up and throwing it into Honduras. I was happy for my students, but grieved greatly for the loss of life in Honduras. I was sorry I had prayed for the hurricane to stop at Belize. I didn’t know what that could mean for the Hondurans.
Finally, prayer is scary because sometimes the issues are just so huge and so confusing and so heart-wrenching that you don’t know where to begin.
I read a book telling the stories of 3 young boys who had crossed the desert of the Sudan after they had lost their parents in bombing raids in the 1980s and 1990s. My heart broke just reading the title of the book God Poured Fire on Us from the Sky and the title of the 2006 documentary, God Grew Tired of Us, about some boys who survived the journey and came to America. Looking through the knot hole, I have no explanation for these kind of issues. I do not believe God loves Belizeans more than Hondurans, or Americans better than the Sudanese, but I wonder how to pray with specificity. What does a 3 – 10-year-old boy do with such an austere childhood? The three in the documentary have dedicated themselves to helping the country they left behind.
I really like the Scripture that says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:26 (NIV) The more I know, the more I know I don’t know, and, so, I groan. I let the Spirit intercede, He knows. He makes prayer less scary.
Thank you, Lord,