A few days ago I woke up and found myself praying impossible prayers.
There was no cognitive process of planning that preceded this event but there has certainly been a lot of reflection after the fact. Reflection, and a decision to keep pursuing this movement towards faith. I don’t know what happened. I just got up one day and started asking God for things that I want, but that I normally wouldn’t ask for because they reside waaaaay outside the box of what I think is actually possible.
Last summer, a long held tendency of mine became apparent to me when I had to lead a group in prayer. I was leading a small group for a six week long book study, and I wanted to incorporate a prayer time because I think we should take all the opportunities that we can to pray together. I don’t think we do it enough, and that it is becoming awkward and unnatural-feeling for a lot of us because we’re not used to it. We’re out of practice, most of us average, run-of-the-mill Christians. Praying in a group setting takes me well outside my comfort zone, but I’m getting better. As the group leader I felt like I needed to lead out, and I did. And I was awkward. But whatever. It was also good. It wasn’t until after our meeting that I realized something was bothering me about that prayer-time.
One lady had asked for prayer for a friend with a medical problem. We prayed, for healing of course, but with definite focus that God would bestow guidance, clarity about the nature of the issue, wisdom and skill for the medical personnel, comfort for the patient, etcetera. Afterwards I wondered why I didn’t just ask God to heal the person. Simple. If I believe God can sharpen and work through people’s talents, and arrange circumstances so that the right patient sees the right doctor under the right circumstances, so that the person receives healing after some kind of a process, why can’t I believe God for a miracle – to touch the patient’s body and heal them?
Praying out loud drew my attention to the problem, but the truth is that I pray that way most of the time. In part, it is because I think God does work through people a lot. We are assembled into community groups for a reason, and helping each other in a multitude of ways is a beautiful expression of love and faith and I believe God comes along side us and blesses these events. I am a helper and servant by nature – acts of service is one of my love languages you could say. But in my narrow focus I forget that there are other ways to love, and I forget that God works through many other avenues. Ways far beyond my own understanding. I forget to pray for possibilities that exist outside of my own understanding.
Years ago, I witnessed a faith healing. It blew my mind. I know what happened really happened because I was the one who was healed. It was a long standing problem that the doctors just couldn’t do anything about. It was annoying more than debilitating. After the healing, it was just healed. Forever. Incredible! I will tell you the story of that sometime. Not now. I just wanted to point this out because it astounds me that I could have experienced that, and still be filled with, well, not doubt so much as a forgetfulness of what God can and will do. Because there was nothing that I did to bring it about. No magic formula. And I can’t explain in a reasonable manner what happened that day. I don’t have the ability to ‘do it again’ because I didn’t do it. My lack of understanding of how it happened is something of a brick wall to my belief that something like that could happen again.
My lack of understanding. When will I learn that just because my own understanding is so severely restricted, that all of the wonder and possibility of existence is not likewise restricted?
I confess to you that I pass the most important prayer requests on to my kids. I know that there is something magical about their utter lack of arrogance when it comes to the merits of their own understanding. I know that that ‘childlike faith’ is something I must pursue myself, but how?
These things have been lurking in the back of my mind for the last six months or so. And then recently, because of the new semester and personal events, my mind has gone to reason and how we, the human race, has made reason into a sort of a god in the last few hundred years. The scientific age has conditioned us to think logically, to only accept what can be empirically verified, and that to think in any other manner is plain nonsensical. Don’t get me wrong, I love science, and logic, and reason. I love a sure thing. What wonderful gifts these are to the human race. What wonderful benefits have come out of them. But like me and my prayer life, we’ve become so pleased with what can come through the good use of clear understanding, that we have forgotten that there are other ways to think.
But the thing is, although this is a pattern of thinking for me, and for all of us, and I know that many, many people will disagree with what I have to say next, but when I stop to think about it, while I appreciate reason as a wonderful tool that we humans have, I don’t actually believe that reason is the be-all and end-all of human thought, let alone all that exists. I mean, come on. Reason has its limits. Beyond the limits of reason is where our prayers, our real, honest, questions and conversations with the Lord of all should really reside.
So anyways, in retrospect, I can see some of the stirrings of my mind and heart that led up to my seemingly spontaneous prayer paradigm shift. I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, or where I’m going with this. But I feel like some sort of huge barrier has been transcended, (since it certainly hasn’t been knocked down). And I hope to keep exploring this new thing. Keep pushing it. After all, I have forgotten before, and it will be easy to forget again. The last few days I’ve been walking around with a profound sense of hope. It is a lot harder to get bogged down in the what-is when you’re preoccupied with that what-could-be.