Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The thing about prayer is that sometimes God has a mind of His own . . .

We were young and married and we were tired of living in an apartment.

Tired is hardly the word . . . worn out is more like it.  The people above us stayed up all night.  Literally.  I actually went upstairs one night at one a.m. and found they had the door wide open with a plastic sign "Feliz Cumpleanos" strung up across the archway.  Someone was walking out and I asked if there was a plan for a party and he shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't live there.  Are you kidding?  Well the good news is that it finished up around four a.m.  Great hours for a party.

I got back at them by aiming my speakers at the ceiling where their beds would be, turning up the bass and turning on Talk Radio as I left for the day.  I figured that maybe I can get them on a less nocturnal routine if I disrupt their sleep during the day.

On nights we didn't have to put up with sounds from above that sounded like a furniture-moving demonstration, we had the man next store who relieved his flatulence with gusto.  Imagine the romance of a Friday night watching a movie with your spouse and hearing the pressure released from the spleen of your grandfather.  Oh and then there were the Sunday afternoons that we were treated to high levels of karaoke from the apartment below us.

We were desperate to move.

And so when we saw a house on Hickory Street for sale we went into full-scale prayer mode.  "God please let it be in your will for us to have this house . . ."

It wasn't. 

I was so crushed.  I couldn't understand why God would deny us of something so obvious.  It was a need and here was a solution.  Why couldn't the two just connect?

See, the thing with prayer is that God has a mind of His own.  We can't treat him like a vending machine.  Well, I guess we can but it won't do any good.  His business isn't in dispensing blessings but molding character.  And sometimes that character is best molded in difficulty.  I wish it weren't so, but it is.  We go through pain because we are being shaped by God into something more than we currently are.

That is why when we pray we need to remember how Jesus prayed.  Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell of Jesus praying to God as He is about to be betrayed:  

"Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)  

And it wasn't just this night that He prayed like that.  Jesus routinely talked of God's will as more important than His own:

"For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me." (John 6:38)

Sometimes we are guilty of praying in a way that doesn't just ask God for help but actually seeks to justify our faith.  In other words, "yes, God I need this from you and this will also be a great time to remind me that you are there."  The problem with that is when we go to God in prayer we are already agreeing with Him that He already knows what we need.  We are okay with the result either way because He is already on the job.  Anything less becomes more about me and that isn't the purpose of prayer to begin with.

So we didn't get the house on Hickory Lane.  I would have loved to fix up the nice little end unit row home with the small yard.   I learned that God has a mind of His own and it is better to get attached to His will than my desires.

About a year after that I was able to treasure that lesson from the backyard of my detached ranch that I never thought I would be able to afford.  Yeah, sometimes God works like that too.

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