by - March 02, 2020

A friend has been praying for a specific concern for almost five months. The repetition gets old after awhile. You get tired of hearing your own voice, and frustration slowly sets in. Of course, you don't want to admit to it, because the Sunday School student in you knows someone above you in the spiritual food chain will call a technical foul for your aggravation with God. 

So you ignore the aggravation and persist in your begging, while your inner critic is taunting you.  You do know the definition of insanity, right...?  And you roll your eyes at yourself instead of God because it's safer. 

Months passed, and my friend couldn't contain his frustration and finally vented it all to God. Then, while he was feeling like a failure, answers came swiftly, as if on cue. He was glad God answered finally, but also felt like a shmuck for lashing out.

His version of this story sounded a lot like shame, and I couldn't let that lie because God doesn't shame us, and that's something I'm working very hard to unlearn myself these days.

So I suggested that God may have purposely withheld the answer until he expressed the frustration. Perhaps that was a good and necessary part of the prayer process. When we come to God with our needs and desires, He doesn't judge us. God doesn't shove his answers in our face right when we are the worst version of ourselves to prove a point. Even earthly fathers would never do that to their children they love, much less our heavenly father, the master at giving good gifts. 

Maybe persisting in prayer isn't about wearing God down, but wearing us down. Maybe God hangs back long enough to coax us out of self-propelled performance into true vulnerable relationship. Besides, he already knows our inner selves, so maybe prayer is sometimes a lengthy process because we're the ones who need reacquainting with our own real selves.

God doesn't want the spruced up version of us. So he waits until we're reduced to the worst of ourselves, because that's the true "us" he loves, died for, and is pleased to give good gifts to. 

Maybe instead of seeing the answer and timing through the lens of shame, we should see both answer and timing through the lens of reward when we finally come before him the way he wanted us from the beginning, and also this time and every time — broken and unable. When we are in that posture, he can draw us into deeper freedom and greater trust. That's when two glorious things are accomplished besides the answering of our prayers. We come to know ourselves better, and we come to know him better. 

He loves the real you. When that person shows up at God's doorstep, truly needy rather than trying hard, he is moved with compassion and provides, even if the answer is no or not yet, and we don't understand why.  

Let's unlearn living by shame, even if it takes the rest of our lives. God is good, and he for us. And this is truth worth fighting to live by. 

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  1. Discerning & wise counsel! Thank you for helping me unlearn some caricatures of God in the persistence of prayer and attitude in the process of praying.


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