Afraid to Pray?
Have you ever been afraid to pray?
I’m in this place a bit right now. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that prayer matters. That it’s crucial. I do pray about things. Prayers of thanksgiving. Prayers about immediate concerns. Prayers of “I’m sorry.”
But more and more, I find that the words don’t come easily. I guess I am afraid because it seems that every time I pray for something, the thing I pray about gets attacked.
Or I feel like my request gets denied, just to teach me a lesson.
Or I feel like the request will be granted, but it will cost me and I will have to pay in some other area.
Or I feel like the answers have been coming so slowly and that I have to pray about things for years … so “Why bother starting now when it will just lead to years of anguish?”
Or I think “I’ve already prayed about that for years. Why ask again?”
Or it feels like when the answers finally do come, when the dreams get fulfilled, it always come with some kind of thorn, something to discourage me and ruin the dream. Like when we finally got the long-prayed-for house after 11 years of renting (a family of 6 in a moldy two-bedroom rental) … only to find out that it has more problems than we can keep up with and that a neighbor’s super-moldy garage is blowing all over my garden - the thing I have been wanting for years and that I found immense delight in, the place I felt nearest to God. And then there’s the long-awaited new mattress after 15 years on an old hand-me-down with springs jutting out the sides and cutting us, only to have it make my hip ache daily. I don’t ask for much … I just wanted a new mattress (one new, clean thing) after 15 years of children peeing and puking in our bed.
I guess I am afraid to hope. To want anything other than what I already have. It feels like others can afford to hope and to want more, but not me. I feel like my hope is so fragile right now that I can’t risk wanting anything else. I can’t bear a “no” or a long, discouraging wait, and so I’d rather not ask or want more. And I am desperately trying to be okay with life as it is, instead of thinking it should be different.
How do I balance this all?
Our society is all about “dream big.” Even Christians are all about “God wants us to be persistent in our prayers, boldly banging on the door of heaven over and over again.” They seem to think that God is always willing to give us what we want … as long as we ask enough times or display enough faith or do “the right things.”
But what about when the answer is “No, My grace is sufficient for you”? Paul prayed only three times about the thorn before accepting God’s answer. Jesus prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane before saying “Not my will, but yours be done.” And here we Christians are, telling each other that we just have to plead with God over and over again for long enough and then He’ll give us what we want. That godly, faithful people don’t “give up.” That God wants us to be super-tenaciously persistent, like the widow pleading with the judge in Luke 18.
But is that true? When is it true and when it is not? How do you know when it’s time to let go of your request? To stop pursuing the answer you want and to simply pursue God instead? How do you balance dreaming big, aiming high, wanting more … and living in thankfulness for the life and blessings you have, doing your best to glorify Him in your current circumstances? When do our dreams become idols, instead of godly pursuits?
I know there is no easy “one size fits all” answer to this. I’m just wondering how to let myself hope again, how to want again, and yet how to be okay with the life I have, discouragements and “no” answers and all.
Have you ever found yourself in this place? Afraid to hope? Afraid to want? Afraid to pray? How did you get through it? Or how are you dealing with it currently? What has this battle taught you?
(posted on my other blog, written 10/22/17, but still so relevant)