I struggle to pray “correctly.” Over the years I have heard many sermons and read many books on how to pray. But when it comes right down to it, praying isn’t a formula to be followed, it is a God to interact with. “Come now, let us reason together,” it says in Isaiah 1:18. That doesn’t sound like a God who wants us to follow a formula. That sounds like a God who wants a back-and- forth conversation with me.
I’ve prayed “Thy will be done” many times, but sometimes I think it is the easy way out. It is easier to pray that than risk praying something that God says no to. It is hard work to seek God’s will and then pray accordingly. And frankly, after seeking God’s will we still aren’t always completely sure that we’ve gotten it right. That’s where the “reasoning together” comes in.
Almost 30 years ago my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. I prayed passionately for his healing. In contrast, many around me prayed for God’s will to be done. It offended me that they weren’t willing to go “all in” with their request. I was crying out to my heavenly Father for something I desperately wanted. I was praying in faith believing He would answer. Night after night, week after week I wrestled with God, Asking Him to do what was impossible from a human standpoint.
A few months later my Dad died. I was heartbroken. I had risked everything by praying for his healing. God whispered, “no.” He had healed him, but not in the way I wanted. I wanted him here with me. God wanted him there with Himself. God’s will won out. I wept and slowly accepted it.
Do I wish I had prayed, “…if Thy will be done”? No, I faced this with my God. Night after night I had reasoned with Him. I had poured out my heart to Him. He did not despise me for being honest. He walked me through the grief and slowly I learned that even when He says no, I can still trust Him.
He grieved that I grieved. Yet, His purposes remained out of my reach and understanding. He whispered, “Someday I’ll explain it to you. Someday you will understand.” That had to be enough.
He continues to walk day by day, moment by moment with me. He doesn’t desert me when the road gets unbearable. He doesn’t mock me when I pray foolish things. Each of those face to face encounters teach me more of who He is. Those times of reasoning together, even wrestling, have brought me closer to the God who loves me than I could have imagined.
So I continue to pray incorrectly. I continue to risk praying the hard prayers. Because that is where I learn more about God and His ways.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” ~Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)