Sometimes I wonder about the effectiveness of prayer.

Really, how does it work?

I believe in its power. I've seen it. I know how it can surprise you and make you feel elated and ashamed all at once; elated because you realize God works in prayer...and ashamed because you weren't sure you really believed. But I always find myself asking God questions about His will versus ours; why He allows some things to happen and not others; and how, if He doesn't interfere with our free will, does  prayer actually change anything?

I think it works to help open our eyes to what He might be doing. It opens our ears to what He might be saying. I know there have been moments where my prayers have shifted course entirely because I was in a place to hear from God. So how do our prayers shift the course of other people's hearts? How does prayer heal? Does God suddenly decide to change His mind and allow a body to be healed just because we asked for it? He knew we were going to ask for it to begin with...was He just waiting for the question? Did He have it planned all along? 

And what about those times when He chooses not to heal? Is it because we fail to ask? Or is it because He is choosing to reveal His glory in another way?

Every time I think I know the answer to these questions, I find out I really don't know anything at all. Sometimes I marvel at how God can be so big and mysterious. And other times I get angry because I just want to understand Him. I don't know how to deal with my doubts.

The only thing I know is this: He is Good. And He is Good all the time.

That seems like it should be enough. Sometimes it is. But most of the time I end up in a very circuitous argument with myself (and God) about why He gave us free will if prayer changes His mind. But prayer only stems from our free will to do so; therefore, I suppose I actually know two things:

God is Good all the time. And we are not. So, naturally, there is going to be some conflict.

We pray because we can. Because we know God works on our behalf and He cares about what matters to us. At least that's why I pray. I want my heart to match His, and there's enough faith in my heart (though I don't want "enough" to be enough) to trust that our sufferings here are nothing in comparison to the beauty and grandeur of what He has planned for us.

But it feels pretty damn real right now.

I just want to feel His goodness so deeply that even if things turn out to be ugly or painful or even downright devastating, I can find peace in Him. I want to know His heart so well that nothing could turn me away from Him. I want to believe without hesitation that God allows for us to suffer not because He desires it but because it shapes us into the kind of people who have compassion, who recognize the suffering of others and care enough to do something about it, who know that just because bad things happen it does not mean we serve a bad God. We simple live in a world where our flaws and His perfection cannot exist without bumping up against each other every once in awhile. 

He is still sovereign. 

And there is beauty from the ashes.

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! For I have overcome the world."- John 16:33


Mark Paul said...

This is incredible. Great questions. Great reflection. Wonderfully expressed.

My name is Wendi. said...

Thank you Mark!