by Keren Dibbens-Wyatt —
Today was an awful day. It was the day after some people I love very dearly had a truly awful day and I know today for them was, if anything, even worse. There is nothing I can do to help them, but pray.
Sometimes praying doesn’t feel like very much. It doesn’t take a huge amount of effort, it doesn’t even have to take much time, so it can feel deceptively insubstantial. But it does take heart. It does take faith, and it is one of the ways God teaches us that it is our smallness, our tiny offering, that he turns into his greatness, his work, his wonder. It is our little two loaves and five fish that he turns into a feast, with basketfuls left over.
I know this because I see the answers he gives all the time, and I feel them too. And I have discovered over the years, that the answers can take a very long time to become apparent. And so I do not give up praying. I believe we have no idea how persevering prayer lifts God’s heart.
Answers to our prayers follow people into heaven and sometimes hell. They surround lives, they bring peace of mind and wholeness of body, they bring good into lives. They transform suffering into doorways to bountiful love. There is no end to the good that God brings out of prayer.
So, on a bad day like today, waylaid even more than usual by a virus and by heartbreak, I pray, knowing that someone knows better than I do. Knowing that someone loves deeper than I do. Knowing that I may never see what fruit came of my taking a minute to ask for something for someone. Trusting that something good came of it. On a good day, I pray, for the same reasons.
Because it takes so little from us, and because its effects are usually far from immediate or visible, it is easy to make the most common mistake in prayer, and the one thing the enemy wants us to do more than anything, and that is, not to pray. To believe the lie that the awfulness is so big and so terrible, that the mess is so huge and difficult, that saying a prayer will not help. To believe, perhaps consequently, that there’s no point praying to a God who “let” the terrible things happen in the first place. To think that my caring is so small that it can’t change a thing, or that God will not listen, let alone act.
But all our prayers rise before God, and he hears them all. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14 NIV) And when you are desperate, or in shock, or in the middle of something traumatic, the ability to pray may well desert you, as it has done to all of us at times. This is when we need intercessors more than anything, and when we realise that clenching our fists is prayer, and when we finally know what Paul meant when he said that some of our prayers are groanings rather than words:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26 NIV)
Does prayer change much? we might wonder. People still die, still suffer, still hurt. But if we have prayed, things are going to be different; transformed by grace, yes, perhaps on a level we might never be aware of, never see. Or we might witness a miracle, or a slowly-released blessing.
I remember a long prayer session about 15 years ago, when I interceded for a young woman I knew in great distress, horribly ill with the same disease I have. During and after the session (this was solitary prayer, she was not present), I felt a huge release of power from heaven. I knew, beyond a doubt, that my prayers had been answered. Yet it was only last year that I saw her truly start to become free from all the things that bound her. And she is blossoming now in ways I’d never dreamed of ever seeing, in part perhaps because of all she has endured, and it seems timely and right. Heaven, I guess, is never in a rush, and knows what it is about.
So today I pray for my loved ones in their distress. And I know and trust those prayers are heard, that God is somehow with them. And that in ways I cannot fathom, their lives and eternities will be better for my prayers. I try not to say these days, “Well, all I can do is pray,” because it seems to me that praying is the best and most powerful action I can take. It can be deeply frustrating, when answers do not seem to come, or they are slow, or things take a strange turn we did not see coming, but only two things remain sure to me in this: God is good, and prayer is never, ever, a waste of time.
Keren, this is such a beautiful invitation to pray and to persist with prayer, because whether or not we ever witness any tangible evidence of change, we can trust and be reassured that God hears and answers prayer. Intercession is a powerful and often private work but oh so necessary! Thank you for reminding us to pray. Bless you, faithful praying friend. xo
Thank you, dearheart x