According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When God Doesn't Answer Prayer

 
By Dorothy Greco
February 18, 2013

Dorothy GrecoDorothy Littell Greco divides her time not-so-neatly between writing, making photographs, pastoring, and keeping three teenage sons adequately fed. She lives and works in the Boston area and is a reluctant Patriots/Celtics/Bruins/RedSox fan. You can check out more of her words and images at www.dorothygreco.com 
 
When God Doesn't Answer Prayer...
At least, how we want Him to answer it.
 
Our all-powerful, all-loving God encourages us to ask Him for what we want. But sometimes, after we’ve put it out there, He seems to turn and walk in the opposite direction. We are left with questions. Why did He want us to pray if He was just going to say no, anyway? We were praying “wrong” in the first place? What are we supposed to do now?
 
I have repeated this cycle multiple times. More than a decade ago, I began experiencing unrelenting fatigue, muscle soreness and waning strength. Countless tests and doctor visits later, I received the diagnosis of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. For the next five years, I politely asked God for healing, then demanded healing, then finally gave up hope for healing.
 
As a result, I have been accused of lacking faith by earnest friends and prayer ministers. I’ve confessed and repented of every sin I can think of, wept, protested and spent more than a few days crippled by despair.
 
We tend to have one of two responses when what we asked for is not given in a timely fashion: trying harder or angry blaming.
 
Apparently, I am not the only one who struggled because of unanswered prayer. Last week, I invited friends to fill in the blank on my Facebook wall: “Unanswered prayer ... ” I received more than 40 responses, including the following: is deeply disappointing, makes me feel unloved, feels like a betrayal, is confusing, can be overwhelming, or is business as usual.
 
Some of our bewilderment emerges because we actually believe that God is all powerful and that He not only wants us to come to him like little children, but also encourages us to ask Him for everything from babies, to spouses, to jobs, to housing to help losing weight. Hence—the disconnect when He doesn’t always give us what we want.
 
This paradox reminds me of our youngest son’s attitude at Christmas. He starts composing his gift list in September, and for the next four months, he will revise, add to and shamelessly share it. Yet when Christmas day rolls around, he is filled with dread—because experience has shown him that though we are good parents, we don’t always give him precisely what he requested. He has told us, “Why bother asking me if you aren’t going to buy me exactly what I want?”
 
Isn’t this how we feel about our heavenly Father? We tend to have one of two responses when what we asked for is not given in a timely fashion: trying harder or angry blaming.
 
My five years of spiritual activism post-diagnosis offer you a snapshot of trying harder. I succeeded only in wearing myself out and spiraling deeper into doubt. None of us can make ourselves worthy—that only comes as a gift from Jesus.
 
Angry blaming similarly leads us into a dead-end. In night four of an insomnia jag, I remember spewing at God, “Why don’t you help me get to sleep? The Bible tells me that you give sleep to those you love! Don’t you love me?” Powerlessness is its own form of suffering. When we’ve run out of other options, anger and blame give us the illusion of control. But it really is only an illusion. It didn’t help my faith and it certainly didn’t help me to sleep.
 
For us to avoid these and other unhelpful responses when our prayers aren’t answered the way we’d hoped, we need to zoom out and glimpse the larger story.
 
What if, rather than interpreting God’s “no” or “not yet” as punishment or indifference, we view it as an invitation to be transformed?
 
Every day, there is an epic battle being waged for our hearts. The enemy of our soul has an entire arsenal at his disposal but his go-to weapon is doubt. Adam and Eve didn’t disobey because they craved the apple, but because they fell for the serpent’s ruse that God was withholding good things from them. If you ever find yourself doubting God’s love or questioning His character, push back—hold to what you know to be true.
 
Expressing gratitude also helps to defuse our despair and suffering. Due to fibromyalgia, I can no longer book all-day photo shoots—but I can still see. I can no longer play basketball with my sons—but I can walk and I constantly thank God for these gifts. Turning our hearts to God in gratitude has the capacity to flip our disappointment upside down.
 
Finally, we must be willing to explore any attachment to entitlement that might contribute to our resentment of how God has answered our prayer. We live in a consumer society and have become accustomed to getting what we want, when we want it. Jesus does not promise to give us everything that we want but rather asks us to sacrifice everything—including our own desires for a specific outcome or result. This changes everything when it comes to how we pray.
 
What if, rather than interpreting God’s “no” or “not yet” as punishment or indifference, we view it as an invitation to be transformed? C.S. Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain, “We are a Divine work of art, something that God is making and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.”
 
The possibility that waiting and suffering have the capacity to transform us offers us profound comfort while crushing our fear of God being fickle. Rather than needing God to answer my accusatory questions of “why,” I am free to ask, “How can I find You in the midst of this?” This inquiry provides us with the traction we need to move beyond our pain and into the transformation that God has for us.
 
 
 

No comments:

Post a Comment