An Honest Prayer

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27 Responses

  1. JD says:

    I might be using a cane again for a while. I was crushed and pinned against a wall at when a forklift backed into me at work at speed. Fractured several ribs and almost died but am resting at home in pain. Feels like a knife in my heart and another one in my back being twisted deeper and deeper.
    Walked out of the hospital but it especially hurts to breathe, cough, even clear my throat or hiccup. Got to follow up with my primary physician in a couple of days and doubtful about returning to work.

  2. Michael says:

    JD,

    Lord have mercy…that is brutal accident.
    Praying that you get some relief from the pain and recover quickly…and all the workers comp paperwork goes smoothly.
    Not much hurts like broken ribs…I hope you have someone helping you.

  3. LInn says:

    Michael,

    I think the fact that you took a walk is just amazing. After so much pain and immobility it is a huge milestone.
    And, maybe that’s enough for today. When I’ve started walking again after my numerous surgeries, the first one has always been the “I can do it!” beginning. They just keep getting a bit longer as my confidence grows (and that may say something about how we relate to God as we take our tough questions to Him).

  4. Michael says:

    Linn,

    Thanks…it’s got to be part of my routine now as I’ve lost so much muscle tone over the last few months.

    It’s already paid some dividends as the neighbor across the street and I had our first conversation in 40 years…turns out we both love cats and he feeds all the strays as well…

  5. Alex says:

    I smiled at this post, Michael. It is a hard thing to be truthful; we all want to pretend, even with ourselves, especially if the truth is upsetting or disconcerting, as what you say here is.
    The last 7 years have disillusioned me; that is, broken some of the illusions I didn’t even know I held.
    It was, and often still is, disconcerting as I was forced to examine how I held church, which led to how I held faith, which led to how I held God.
    After devastation, I still don’t know how I hold God. I do believe God holds me, though how I’m not sure.
    God is a mystery to me. Most of my ideas about God have crumbled.
    The events of the last years have led me to study the Christian mystics. I am finding kindred spirits there. Doubt is welcomed there, as is a deep love for God that seems to pass understanding.
    I no longer pray. I prayed for many of the last few years with an intensity and sincerity I’d never had before. But it seemingly came to naught. Was I even heard? Did I pray wrong? What does God even want in prayer?
    I don’t know. I really don’t know. So now I just talk to God, talk with God, talk to Jesus. I just talk. I say what is on my mind and my heart. I try to tell the truth. I try to keep it simple, even childlike which is hard for me, but it’s the only form of prayer that even feels real anymore.
    As a psychologist and a believer (I do believe, help my unbelief), I am walking with James Finley in the last year. He makes a claim re God that now seems true to me, however disconcerting it is – he says that God protects us from nothing while sustaining us in all things.
    That is my experience. I was not protected and those I love were not protected, but I am sustained and find I am loving God lately in a freer, more mature, less certain yet firmer, way that I ever have before.
    Full disclosure though: Were it not for Jesus, I do not know if I would have any basis for affirming the love of God. Without the example of Jesus, I’m not even sure I could believe in God (or maybe believe God?) any longer. But Jesus…
    Thank you for being truthful here.

  6. Michael says:

    Alex,

    So very well said…

    This was going to be my next article, but I think the sentence is sufficient;

    ” God protects us from nothing while sustaining us in all things.’

    This is what my experience tells me…I have no reasonable explanation for why I’m still here except the sustaining power of God.

    Like you, Jesus is all I’m sure of.

  7. Josh says:

    That was well said. Spoke for me too.

    This isn’t our old friend Alex is it?

  8. Michael says:

    Josh,

    That would be no…

  9. Josh says:

    Do you ever have any contact? I thought about him lately.

  10. Michael says:

    Josh,

    No.

  11. Officerhoppy says:

    I read this and thought “he”s been reading my journal for the past 20 years.l

    I truly appreciate the authenticity. I am a Christian and follower of Christ-a pastor. But like you my prayers usually go unanswered, and I honestly feel God abandoned me as a pastor. Unlike you, though, I just kinda gave up praying

    But today is my 48th wedding anniversary. As I thought back of the last 48 years. My wife was a God send. If not for her, and my 2 daughters, I would have been homeless, living under a bridge, and an alcoholic. And I am not overstating that!

    As I thought back, I had to thank God for her, the fact I had two good jobs (cop and a pastor). I have a nice home, money in the bank, and have accomplished some pretty cool things ( 2 children’s books published, made a record with two giant personalities in the Christian music industry)

    So I’m trying to change my attitude about prayer. Giving thanks for what I have rather than asking for more. Although, I’ve been praying for Reuben and his son.

    Seems a good place to start.

    Thanks for posting this. Makes me feel ther3 is someone out there who understands

  12. Michael says:

    Officerhoppy,

    I think this is the common experience of most Christians…we’ve just been shamed into saying otherwise.

    Praying with gratitude will keep you sane…it really does make a huge difference.

  13. Officerhoppy says:

    Alex
    A lot of what you wrote resonates with me.

    But I found this statement intriguing!“ Were it not for Jesus, I do not know if I would have any basis for affirming the love of God. Without the example of Jesus, I’m not even sure I could believe in God (or maybe believe God?) any longer. But Jesus…
    Thank you for being truthful here.

    Hmmmmmm…

  14. Captain Kevin says:

    Alex, Hoppy, Michael,
    You guys are expressing what I’ve felt about prayer for decades. Early on, I used to tell people my favorite verse was Eph. 3:20. I’ve stopped saying that. I still believe it, but I don’t have any personal experience to back it up.

  15. Michael says:

    CK,

    We need to talk about these things more…because somewhere in the mystery we find God…

  16. Shawn says:

    I apologize in advance for this torturously long post. There are the thought it provoked.

    Glad to hear that you were able to go for a walk. It has been WAY too hot here for me to take my walks but hopefully relief is on the way. Wow! The comments on this post are gold. In a way I wish we could have talked about these things in our ministry training. It would have been nice to know that we didn’t have to shoot confident rainbows out of our backsides all the time.

    Nothing in our ministry training prepared us for when things would not be okay. There was never really any talk of unanswered prayers though they stacked up daily. Which I always found strange because I was sure that when I read the Scriptures that sometimes even the giants of faith were frustrated by God’s inactivity and inattention. Was it not David who cried, “How long O’ Lord will you forget me… hide from me… let me talk to myself… let sorrow torment me daily… let my enemy be promoted over me?” (Psalm 13)

    In many ways I understand your dilemma all too well. For me, there is an added dimension, that maybe many others struggle with too. I hope I am not alone. There have been many times I thought I had an answer to my prayers. On a few occasions I was sure it was directly from God. In time it did not come to pass even though there was a chain of Scriptural and prophetic confirmations.

    The reason that initiated these prayers was often varied. Sometimes it was regarding my quest for lifelong companionship. Other times it was for direction in the ministry. Most times it was anything and everything between those two. If I was to really think hard about it, though I won’t, I imagine that between 60-70% were regarding myself. This leaves between 30-40% regarding others. Maybe that is quite telling.

    Over the years I concluded that the problem was with me. The potential ramification is quite scary. My problem seems to be one of recognition. I guess I am a sheep that doesn’t recognize the Shepherd’s voice. You see what I mean about ramifications? If I was more emotionally driven this realization would be kind of scary. Maybe it should be.

    How did I solve this conundrum? I often choose not to pray, especially for myself. It seems better than coming to grips, once again, that in it my perceived answer may not have been Him speaking. The confusion, disillusionment, and heartbreak are too much to bear, to rehash, all over again.
    As for praying for others I was trained to do it the moment they ask. While over the years I have prayed hundreds if not thousands of prayers for others that have mostly gone unanswered, though I am not sure they were not answered either. It may well be that He answered in a way that wasn’t discernable any of us. God Only Really Knows.

    Until my faith becomes my sight, I will fumble my way through this world ever reaching towards the dimmest light. For I know the dimmest light that emanates from even the outer most edge of God’s garment is brighter than the most brilliant light of my unconverted state. It is strange that all these years later, I find a certain amount of comfort in all of this because it magnifies the mystery and silence of God. I suppose it is like being in the middle of a road where one half of your body is being drenched by rain as the other half is completely dry. It is the intersection between dark foreboding storms and sun shiny bright blue skies. Am I drenched or am I dry? Yes, I am…

    Sometimes it hurts too much to feel anything else but pain. Adulation for a moment is a dangerous thing because the rush it gives tries to convince you that it should reign endlessly. But when it doesn’t what is left? I am not exactly sure where I was going with that thought but it probably had something to do with Psalm 13.

    Speaking of Psalm 13 I welled up with tears upon reading it. In my opening comments I had only intended to use the How long O’ Lord bit without fully quoting or even reading it. However, a gentle stirring provoked me to read it. As I did it was like I was reading my own thoughts in the Bible. I had to read it three times just to make sure I was reading it correctly. Over the years I read this Psalm many times, even taught on it, but I never read it like I did today. It was liberating to say the least.

    The funny thing is that amid the tears I felt a sense of comfort which is strange because there is nothing really comforting in Psalm 13. The Psalmist is not given a single answer to any of his questions. No assurance is given though he has laid his heart bare. The tension is unresolved. It just kind of hangs there in animated suspense.

    The Psalm ends as the writer chooses to trust what he does not see at that moment: God’s unfailing love, salvation, or goodness. Then surprisingly, somehow, in some way, he musters up the strength to sing the Lord’s praise. Avery unexpected but fitting conclusion. Something to ponder. It is this tightly wound but thin string that keeps me from falling into the abyss. Well, that plus the seemingly limitless grace of God and the one-of-a-kind shepherding skills of the Savior.

    Thank you, God for Michael’s brutal honesty, along with Alex, Hoppy, Captain Kevin, and the other comments. I sorely needed it. It is nice to find out that I am not the only one who walks this road. May you provide the strength for all others who also walk this road to keep their faith during the times of Your mystery and silence.

  17. Michael says:

    Shawn,

    Thank you for that thoughtful and thought provoking comment.
    It was well worth the time it took to read.

    My purpose in sharing these things is to allow people to be liberated from all the pain and guilt that come from our common experience of unanswered prayer…and to then find reasons for faith and hope moving forward.

    I’m still in process…and I’m glad you are sharing your processes as well…it helps us all.

  18. Captain Kevin says:

    “It would have been nice to know that we didn’t have to shoot confident rainbows out of our backsides all the time.” 🤣

    “For I know the dimmest light that emanates from even the outer most edge of God’s garment is brighter than the most brilliant light of my unconverted state.”

    “May you provide the strength for all others who also walk this road to keep their faith during the times of Your mystery and silence.”

    Shawn,
    Thank you for adding your thoughts to this thread. That first quote gave me a chuckle. The other two I just think bear repeating, along with an Amen.

  19. Officerhoppy says:

    Shawn
    Great post, man. Thanks for sharing

    Btw—psalm 13 is one of my favorites! Because it’s real.

    But I have to be honest and say I don’t understand how after questioning God how he can say in vs 6 “ will sing to the LORD because He has treated me generously.”

    Is he being honest in that statement? Is he just trying to end on a positive note? Or do some “self talk”? Or is that how he really feels despite a God who doesn’t answer his prayers? I dunno

    Any thoughts?

  20. Shawn says:

    Thank you Michael and Captain Kevin. I appreciate your replies and encouragements. They go a very long way.

  21. Michael says:

    Officerhoppy,

    I think there are at least a couple answers…

    One is that even in the darkness there are things to give thanks for.

    There have been many times when I just gave thanks for my cat or my friends, or the health I still have.

    These are spoken in sincere gratitude.

    Second, he was affirming God’s character and expressing hope based on that character.

    This is the sort of praying that will keep you alive…

  22. Shawn says:

    Officerhoppy,

    Thanks for the kind reply and encouragement. I am mulling over a few ideas in addition to Michael’s. Hopefully, I will be able to pull them all together and find time to write them very late tonight or tomorrow morning.

  23. JD says:

    Admitted to the hospital for a pacemaker tonight.

  24. Captain Kevin says:

    Praying JD

  25. Michael says:

    JD, may the comfort and healing of God be with you…praying you have folks around to care for you…

  26. Em says:

    good cooments … IMHO

  27. Robin says:

    In my case, I have severe OCD and prayer makes little sense to me. It’s like what can I say to the Infinite, how can I explain my case to Him properl since He knows all and my words are foolish at best. And all my thoughts and pains and disappintments rush at me and all I can do is wince and feel resentment that God allowed so much suffering to me. Yet I know in my bones that there is more to following Jesus than pain and being used by others, that there are seasons and that one day He will make me strong again. I have felt His blessing before and nothing compares to the deep joy he gives. He has given me far over what my expectations were.

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