How many times have we earnestly and fervently prayed for something only to not receive it? Or how many times have we held back that kind of prayer, to settle for whatever happens because we’re uncomfortably aware that we have kept the God of answered prayers, to whom we should be praying, at a “safe distance” from ourselves. This has probably happened to all of us if we’re honest, maybe more than once or twice, but if in those moments we don’t stop and re-consider the totality of those happenings, we can create the less than desirable effect of widening the gap of that “safe distance”.
To begin with, the grace that we all have experienced in our lives, to the point of sometimes taking it for granted, as well as our past prayers that have been magnificently answered, can become diminished and somehow insignificant.
I have found that many times my unanswered prayers have been for people who have succumbed to illness or injury and passed away, in spite of our great faith that God could heal and raise them up and our offering of those very prayers has seemingly come to nothing. That hurts. Imperceptibly, those unanswered prayers can quietly usher in a false sense of unfulfilled promises. The very promises that we know exist and may have been taught to us from our youth.
Could it be true that we just plain abhor investing ourselves into something like fervent prayer, settling for cursory topical ones? How then do we become offended at not receiving the answer we desire. Meager investments yield meager returns, no matter what the currency. More on that in a moment.
Recently, while with some friends in a time of prayer together, one of them stepped up to lead us in a slightly different manner, suggesting a time worship followed by an invitation for us to pray freely afterward. Her instructions for our worship were this though: Take ourselves COMPLETELY out of it. Even to the point of not including our thanksgiving in it, because that thanksgiving would have some aspect of “self” attached to it. Just purpose to make declarations to God, purely and solely acknowledging who He is.
No mine. No my. No I, we, ours, theirs, them, us, etc. Just… Him.
It was surprisingly hard to do this at first and I immediately realized that I had never, ever purposed to do it, always adding a little (or a lot) of myself whenever I worshiped God. Within a few moments though, I began to detect a change. I sensed that worshiping Him in this way took me to a place of wider spaces of peace that seemed fresh, new and unfamiliar, because I had never purposed to go there in that way before. In that space EVERYTHING was okay, past, present and future. Gone. Gone were the voices and callings of the world and my life, that beckoned for the attention due to them, which is never truly satisfied, by the way. It was amazing.
Scripture is full of covenantal promises for us, some of them very direct and specific, but how are we to respond when our hope in them evaporates, sometimes in a single moment, because a heart’s desire would go unfulfilled? Difficult as it may be, we must pry our clenched fists off of the doubt that invites itself into our very lap in those moments and grasp for the truth that no longer seems available because of those moments. A traveling preacher, named Tom Skinner, began a series of teachings years ago which he started and ended with these statements:
“I spent a long time trying to come to grips with my doubts, and suddenly realized that I had better come to grips with what I believe. I have since moved from the agony of questions that I cannot answer, to the reality of answers that I cannot escape, and it’s a great relief.”
I believe that somehow grace… is as big as the universe and has the characteristics of a liquid, always seeping to the lowest place it can go. That’s where people live, unfortunately. It’s the smallish definitions we’ve given to grace, that just don’t contain the revelation to give us recognition of it’s presence with us at all times. As a result, disappointment finds its way into our human lives more often than it should.
But in going to a place of pure selfless worship, even for a few fleeting moments, I found that it had no choice but to stay behind. Standing in a very small part of that, away from my “self” became bigger and more secure than anything I’ve ever experienced.