LATE NIGHT THOUGHTS ON PRAYER & FAITH

May 16, 2018

I’m having a hard night. I’m sad, I’m discouraged, I’m lonely. I sat in bed to journal and read my Bible before going to sleep like I usually do. When I start feeling the way I’m feeling tonight, I look forward to doing these things even more because they help calm me down. Lately, and especially the past few days, I’ve been feeling increasingly overwhelmed when I pray. I don’t know if other people experience this too, but I stress myself out about my prayers and the way I pray so much. I know I’ve mentioned before that I know there is no right or wrong way to come to the Lord in prayer, but I tend to overthink it.

At church, we are doing a sermon series on miracles. This week, we talked about miracles of healing. Something I love about listening to sermons at church is that people can get different things out of the same message. The message was mainly about miracles of physical healing, but I know a lot of that message could apply to my situation, too. One thing that was mentioned in service this week was the importance of faith when praying for miracles, and how even the smallest amount of faith can mean so much to God. The Bible verse about having faith as small as a mustard seed has always been encouraging to me, because I know that as a human sometimes having a lot of faith can be really hard, especially in situations where a miracle seems unlikely.

Ironically (but not really), I had already been thinking about faith a lot lately. I’ve noticed that with the situation I’ve been in, I’ve had more faith than I’ve ever had, which is actually surprising to me. I didn’t know that in a season of deep sadness and uncertainty that I would have this much faith in God, but I think drastic situations can show you things about yourself that you didn’t see before. I’ve prayed continuously for a long time, because I know that I will see my prayers answered some day. I fully believe that the Lord is going to reveal his plan for me one way or another. I fully believe that I won’t be hurting forever. I have faith in those things, even though where I am right now can feel very permanent. I have moments sometimes where I know that my faith in the Lord is real because of how I genuinely believe that he is working through this season I’m in.

But, there are some times when I feel like I get too technical when it comes to having faith. I’ll try to explain what I mean here.

Like I’ve said before, I fully believe that God could change the situation I’m in and give me exactly what I’ve been wanting if that’s his plan for me. I believe he could move in mine and other people’s hearts and restore things that seem completely unlikely to be restored. I believe this because I know that God is capable of absolutely anything. There are stories in the Bible of him performing way crazier miracles, and I’ve seen the Lord do the unexpected in situations that are very similar to mine, so I have faith that he is able. But, I start to worry that maybe he won’t do that for me, and if he’s not going to do it for me then I shouldn’t even waste time praying for it. I worry that I am minimizing God’s power by asking for the things that I want, because what if he is trying to show me something so much better, and here I am still wanting this one thing? 

These thoughts and the feelings I’m having tonight make me worry that what I truly want right now is stupid or not worth praying for. I usually believe that talking to God about the desires of my heart and asking him to do the unexpected by blessing me with them is an act of vulnerability and faith, but the feelings I have on nights like tonight try to convince me that it’s not faith at all; instead it’s just me being naive for wanting something that seems so far out of reach at this point. As I’m typing that, I can’t help but think that those thoughts and feelings are straight from the enemy. (That’s why blogging is good for me — I have God moments in the process).

I believe that God can do anything. I believe that God CAN answer my prayers exactly the way I’m hoping he will. But, I often doubt because I assume that God wouldn’t do it for me. Sometimes in the middle of my prayers I think, “I shouldn’t assume that you are going to answer this the way I want you to,” because I don’t want to get my hopes up; and although I know God does miracles all the time, I can’t imagine what it would be like for him to do the exact thing that I’m hoping for. It doesn’t seem like it could ever be a reality.

Because I want something so much, and I know how unlikely it is. I look at my situation and I see how slim the chances are for anything to change. I look at it and feel like a complete idiot for thinking that there is even a slight chance that something could change for the better. I worry that maybe the way my situation is looking right now is some kind of sign from the Lord that I keep overlooking. And when I think about those things, I get overwhelmed to the point where I don’t know what I should pray for and I start to feel guilty for having the small hope that I do have. 

I know what God can do, but I get scared to ask for it for fear that I’m praying for the wrong things.

I know what God can do, but I get scared to ask for it for fear that he won’t give it to me.

A passage was read in church this week, and it reminded me so much of myself that I almost cried. It’s a story in the New Testament about the father of a boy who was possessed by an evil spirit that was trying to destroy him. When the father talked to Jesus and wanted him to heal the boy, it’s obvious that he was experiencing the same type of doubt I have been lately:

“But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘if you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-25)

Basically, this guy wanted Jesus to heal his son, but he didn’t want to get his hopes up. He knew Jesus could, but he didn’t know if Jesus would. So instead of boldly asking Jesus to do what he really wanted to be done, he said something along the lines of, “if you’re able to do anything here, that would be great.” Jesus called him out on this: “what do you mean ‘if‘? You know I can do anything, why would you not ask for it?” The man believed, but he needed the Lord to help him overcome his doubt that a miracle would be performed for him.

Jesus ended up performing the miracle, and I can’t imagine the joy that father must have felt. This story really stuck with me, because I understand how hard it is to have bold faith. But the good thing is, the Lord understands that we are human and it is hard sometimes to have faith for miracles. And this story makes it clear that miracles from the Lord can be done with just a small amount of faith. Mustard seed faith. He just wants us to have enough faith to know that he is able to do anything we ask, no matter how impossible it seems to us. He can bring hope from the most hopeless situations, and because he is the only one who is able to do this, why would we not come to him with our greatest desires?

Lately, I’ve been praying for a miracle. I’ve been praying for the Lord to do the unexpected in my life. I can’t say that I expect him to do what I hope and pray he will do, but I do know that he is able. And as long as I know that he is able, I’m going to continue to come to him with my prayers that may sometimes feel stupid or pointless to me. I have to remember that the Lord honors our vulnerability with him, and he honors our faith. I don’t know if my faith will result in him giving me what my heart truly wants right now or in him showing me something else, but I know he wants me to have faith in him.

Just a side note here: while I am hoping for something specific, my prayers are not closed-minded, and I think that’s so important. I’m not opposed to anything the Lord could bring of my situation — in fact, I pray for whatever God could be doing all the time. Sometimes I worry that if I pray for what I want then it will look like I’m not open to whatever else the Lord could be doing (I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ever felt that way, so I wanted to address this). But, I have to remember that the Lord knows my heart. He knows I trust him either way, but he knows that my heart is longing for something. When we pray, we have to trust that he knows everything we are feeling — we never need to worry about something coming across the wrong way with him.

My prayers for a specific miracle are not me saying “God, I won’t be happy with anything except this.” They are me recognizing that the Lord already knows the desires of my heart, and he wants me to come to him with my deepest longings — it’s part of being in a relationship with him. He doesn’t want me to keep my true desires from him just because I’m worried he won’t give them to me. I have faith that God can do the unexpected in any situation. No matter how discouraging it can feel to pray for a miracle, I have faith that God is able. I don’t want to put any limits on God by holding back from him.

I believe, but I need him to help my unbelief.

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