strange answers to normal prayers
Since I'm in a sharing mood again, I want to revisit the time I copied my daily journal directly into a blog post:
I was in a new place, facing new fears and new worries. Strangely, though, the answers to my prayers that day haven't changed. Keeping track over the past few months I've discovered some patterns. Here's a brief summary of the strange answers I get to my daily prayers!
"I've already taken care of it."
This is the most common answer I get. It's also the least satisfying! I want to be justified in my worries. I want to revel in my own miserable fears. I want God to look down and say, "Wow, Tate! You're right. That sure is a big problem! I wonder if it'll ever get solved? You have every right to worry about it!"
Unfortunately, life is actually much simpler than that. God knows what I need before I ask him. He's working even when I don't notice. My prayers in these cases just alert me to the fact that he already has my entire life planned–plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future.
"You're going to forget what you prayed about in less than an hour, but I'll still grant it anyway."
Oof. This one is so accurate it hurts. As the smallest things shift in urgency, I often mistake things that don't matter for things that do. I worry about it, I pray about it, it gets taken care of, then I forget about it. Reflecting on this simply reminds me how unimportant most worrisome things are.
"It doesn't matter what you choose, I'll bless you no matter what"
I want answers! I want a clear path forward and guarantees that I'm doing things right. As it turns out, most of the time big choices don't actually matter that much. I worried about which colleges to apply to; God would have blessed me no matter which one I chose. I fretted over which classes to take, which church to attend, which lab to join, which summer activities to do, and absolutely none of them changed the grand arc of my life.
As it turns out, there's not one, single "path" that's precisely "where I'm supposed to be." Believing this only leads to unnecessary fear. Every path, every choice, every success and every failure: all of them have already been redeemed for God's purposes.
"You're right where I want you. Don't worry about it!"
This goes hand-in-hand with the last one. I want to constantly move. If I'm not making forward progress, surely I'm doing something wrong?
The reality is that letting be and being still is usually the right thing to do. Progress will come at the right time, but it must never come at the expense of enjoying where you are. When I was in elementary school, I just wanted to move on up to junior high. Even with all the new joys of rotating classes and interschool competition, I still miss the naps and snacks and unstructured free time of kindergarten through fourth grade.
In high school, my senior year, I was so ready to move on to college that I forgot, ignored, and dismissed most of the fun things my classmates and I could have done together before saying goodbye for a very long time. If I were to do it over again, I would appreciate and revel in the unique love my classmates and I had for each other after spending (in some cases) almost eighteen years together in daycare through high school graduation.
The lesson I learn from this: I can't make accurate quality judgements about the present before experiencing all of its future consequences. Simple trust dictates that God uses all things for our good.
"You already know the answer. Quit trying to delay by pretending to pray."
Another one that's so accurate it hurts!
I say, "God, please help me know the right thing to do!" and he says, "Tate, you already know what to do: now actually do it!"
Maybe I can fool myself, but when prayer aligns my heart with God's I can't purposefully ignore him any more (especially when I think of Jonah!).
"My way is so much better."
Finally, when I, like Jonah, really never get it, God doesn't take out his megaphone to get it in my head. He uses his still, small voice and lets me listen if I so choose to. I can go my own way for as long as I want, but he's always faithful to gently pull me back home.
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