“I’ve heard it said, ‘Be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it.’”
My pastor’s voice came over the nursery loud-speaker. My arms were full of sleeping infant. The woman beside me listened with closed eyes to the sermon overhead.
“Hmmm,” she grunted. “That is so true.”
My arms were asleep. I shuffled and looked down into the tiny face. My mind ticked away. I failed to stop the words leaking from my mouth.
“No,” I said. “No, it isn’t.”
I’ve heard that phrase many times growing up. Most often when a preacher would stumble onto James 1:3. The passage says: “for you know that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The preacher would look up from his Bible and say, “This is why we need to be careful when we pray for patience.”
People…we’re missing the point.
What is prayer? Prayer is our direct communication with God. Sometimes it feels like God is so far away. Prayer is our link, our chain to him. It’s the time when we stop to talk to him. Sometimes we cuddle in his lap, cup our hand around his ear and whisper to him. Other times, we weep and scream. Our Father delights in all these moments. He wants to share them with us: the hurt, the fear, the joy, the sorrow. Looking at the Psalms you see hundreds of prayers. Those saints too whispered, screamed, cried, and sung for joy. It was just as essential in their spiritual walk as it is to us today. It moves us closer to abiding in the beautiful, unfathomable love of God.
C. S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” God made us for more, and as we grow closer to him we find our true love and desires molding to his, giving us the fulfillment we’ve always craved. Our defective sinful natures keep us locked in the temporal, but closer abiding changes us. It changes our prayers. Our prayers morph from “God I want a new car” to “God please give me more patience.” God wants us to seek patience. Increased patience will give us increased joy. Permanent joy. New cars give us temporal happiness.
So, should I truly fear to ask anything of God? What’s the worst that will happen? Truly. Is it the “no” I fear? That saying would teach us it’s the fulfillment of such I should fear. No. The answer comes in the verse just prior to James 1:3. It says, “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Joy people! Joy! Not happiness. Not a faint smile, but real, deep, abiding, joy.
Ironically, seconds prior to these words over the loudspeaker, my companion and I had been discussing my miscarriage. This time last year I was pregnant. God chose to take my child from my husband and me directly to him. It would be a gross understatement to say this has been hard on us, we both desperately want a child, but the fact of the matter is, I have never once been angry at God for doing so. I ask him “why”. It’s a legitimate question. I don’t know the answer. What I do know is this. I learned through my miscarriage that God loves my husband and me. I learned that he is in ultimate control of everything. I learned that I can fall into his arms when I’m hurt and frightened.
We have two thoughts before us. One: we need to be careful to ask God for things or we’ll get them. Two: I received desired spiritual lessons from my miscarriage. If we believe thought one to be truth, than thought two is a direct result of thought one. Thus the only conclusion we can draw is that I would be holding my baby today if I had never asked God to teach me to love and trust him more. I submit to you that this is heresy. If not, then it’s safer for us to restrict our prayers to the weather.
God is not the divine author of agony. He does not sit on his throne waiting to squash us with trials, death, and fun sucking. He wants the best for us. He wants us to have peace. He wants us to have joy. If we truly believe that, we will never fear to ask him for anything. Our spiritual growth brings joy to us and God. I found joy in my trial. Yes, I found grief too, but the joy is pervasive. One day I will see my baby again. I believe this. Until then I find joy and love in the arms of a God who will fill the aching hole that my baby left with me.
I have not stopped praying for God to teach me to love him more. I will not stop. And, so far, the roof of my apartment hasn’t caved in and my refrigerator isn’t infested with genetically enhanced arthropods.