When I was in Elementary School I attended an assembly led by none other than Ronald McDonald. It was a pretty big deal, and at the time I was sure he was THE Ronald McDonald from TV and not some lame replica from our local chain store.
In that seminar he drove home one point. Don’t smoke.
Done! I had no interest in becoming a third grade smoker so this was an easy lesson to keep.
Yet my little heart was troubled because …my Dad smoked. Surely, I thought, he must not know the things that Ronald McDonald had just to me, so I rushed home from school, hauled out my markers and wrote him a letter. With pictures, asking him to stop smoking.
Turns out he did know that smoking was bad for him and he kept at it anyway, much to my dismay. I wrote him countless letters.
It became my most fervent prayer request: “Dear God, please help my Dad stop smoking so he won’t die. Amen.” (And probably other things about Care Bears and Disney World and mean kids on the playground…)
But God didn’t come through like I hoped he would. Eventually my Dad died of heart disease, which the smoking surely had a role in.
For years I prayed that my Mom would rebound from devastating depression. But still she took her life.
I prayed we wouldn’t have to move, and many of you joined in with me. Yet off we go again.
Here’s my question: It seems that God will and won’t do, what God will and won’t do so what’s the point of asking for otherwise?
I can deal with his will, but why teach us to ask him to intervene?
You may not know this, but in the theology world there are different sorts of prayer, all of the prayers I’ve written about so far in the post fall under the category “supplication prayer.”
This is the prayer request prayer, the Please God prayer, in short it’s the sort of prayer where we ask for things. Supplication, supply, give, please…
For the past few months some friends and I, along with a facebook community of over 14,000 people have been praying for a little baby named Elease.
Elease developed a severe infection in her body just a few weeks after birth that shut down her kidneys and liver. She’s been hospitalized for months and her condition has improved and then worsened, burdening and warming the hearts of all who join together to pray for her and her family.
This little baby has landed herself firmly in the middle of my heart, the very battlegrounds in which I am going round and round with God trying to figure out this prayer thing.
I would love to tell you that I’m not still asking “why” when faced with unspeakably painful stories…
But I am.
I’ve somehow laid my cards down on the table with God over baby Elease and said, look God, you haven’t come through for me, but show up for Baby Elease? Heal her, or I’m done.
I doubt I would be done, but what I’m saying is that I need God to show up for this little girl, for this family. I need her to live a long and full life. I need to know that prayer works, that it matters, that it does something… That God hears and intervenes.
Because so often we are powerless, we say “all we can do is pray.”
And when we’re involving in the creator of every cell and baby girl in the universe, surely this is no small thing.
But lately I wonder if what prayer does is involve us in the things that God cares about, just not like we think.
What if we’re not putting enough hands and feet on our prayers?
Maybe instead of just saying “I’ll pray for you” which, let’s face it we often forget to follow through on, we prayed in other ways?
So, instead of staying home and stalking baby Elease on Facebook, I contacted Elease’s family, got out my dutch oven, picked up a wooden spoon and made a batch of white chicken chili. I paired it with some blue corn tortilla chips, loaded them into the car and dropped them off at the children’s hospital for Elease’s Mom and Dad to have for lunch.
What I’m saying is this: I don’t know how prayer works, but I know how to make chili.
I don’t know how to heal a baby but I know how to make lunch for a family who’s new home address is the Children’s hospital.
It feels like a small thing, a drop in the bucket of pain, but it’s a way that I’ve found to pray.
And, the more I think about it, the more right it feels. Like something Jesus called us to.
“Then they will say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’ He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.” ~Matthew 25.
I don’t understand prayer and it is really tripping me up in my spiritual walk.
But I do understand lunch and comfort food. I do know how to put myself in someone else’s shoes and show up with a love that only exists because I’ve been loved by Christ.
Don’t worry, I’ve ordered a few books on prayer and I’m going ’round and ’round trying to come to a place of understanding and peace. I realize some may view this struggle as spiritually immature, maybe it is, but I’m not giving up.
Nope, I’m making chili and praying with my time, my wallet and my kitchen. Sometimes I pray with my cell phone and connect with friends using encouraging words and silly pictures.
Guys, prayer is confusing. Yet, Jesus did it so it’s clearly a powerful connection to God.
I want to understand the heart of God or at least come to a place of greater peace with my confusion.
And when I do, I don’t think I’ll stop making Chili. No, I suspect that the closer I grow the the heart of God, the more my prayers will come from my hands. Not folded, but full of provision in love in all it’s many, personalized forms.
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