When the Prayers Aren’t Working

To say it plainly, I’ve been praying for a few things lately that are just moving from bad to worse. Each update feels like either a step in the wrong direction, a gigantic leap in the opposite direction or at best a stand-still. Nothing that makes me say, “Oh thank God” – at least not in the way that I want to say it.

I know sometimes God says, “No.”
I know sometimes God says, “Wait.”
I know sometimes God probably desires the same things I do but is a believer of free will and so brings strength and deliverance in other ways.
I believe He is at work, I get this.

At the moment, much of my frustration does not affect me personally. My home, my family and most of those in my personal circle are doing fine in that “busy but healthy, no crisis, doing ok” mode. But this is what I find helpful about the practice of journaling your prayers. Why am I bothered right now? What am I mad about? Why am I walking around feeling that some of my prayers aren’t working?

I wrote about my friends who are hurting. I wrote about the people with health needs. I wrote about my friends who are grieving, some of whom spending the holidays for the first time without a particular loved one.

Then Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines and we saw the reports of the many who perished, and the many who are grieving and in need. It  just piles on. Every discouraged friend, every piece of bad news, everything that you’ve put in any holding pattern crashes down now.

My cynicism and faith have it out these days. All the questions get asked again. The pain, frustration and the anger swells a bit. And so I’m prompted to keep praying. It’s not really useless, it’s where it all is at the moment. It’s the deep part of the wave or the moments after the sharp blade cuts the skin and the blood and the nerves signal there’s been a breach or the aching pain in the soul that a MRI will never find.

Somewhere in all of this, God is at work. I really believe that. I do not think that God needs me to say the “right words” which is good because I find it impossible to be superstitious. From what I can see from our Scriptures, He gets rather angry when we don’t approach him with a full heart of honesty. A God who wants my raw, unfiltered, honest words – that sounds like a worth believing in.

So I keep praying. I also limit my social media and try my best to not isolate myself from these thoughts nor to numb myself either. At the same time, I try not to obsess and lose myself in them either. I cannot solve these matters my sinking under the weight of them. Again, all this prompts me to pray more.

Of course, I want results and to see deliverance. Of course I want my friends whom I have been praying for to call and say, “The most amazing thing happened!” But I what I also want is to be living with His joy and in His surrender.

“Joy in the Lord” is not necessarily happiness, but more a confidence in God which leads to a form of happiness (but not really the glee kind).  And surrender is not always weakness. It would seem spiritual surrender comes not when you’re tired, not when you’re desperate, not when you realize your adversary is stronger than you as we know that it’s noble to fight to the death. Spiritual surrender tends to come when you realize the person you are fighting against is not your enemy but your helper, your provider, your ally.

How good it is to pray to and share my honest heart with this ally – even when your prayers don’t feel like they’re working.
May we discover the virtues found in perseverance and live the words of the Psalmist, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.”

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