I have come to lean on prayer for everything. Day-by-day I find myself in a rhythm of conversation with the Father that is necessary and makes life seem pointless without it.
A short while ago, around the Thanksgiving holiday, I was deep in prayer for a friend and her husband who was ill in the hospital. The man’s illness had no explanation… the doctor’s were completely stumped. A myriad of tests couldn’t bring any clear conclusions and yet his condition worsened. The day after Thanksgiving I sent a message to my friend. I told her, “Today, Psalm 23 for you, but for your husband: WAR!” I warred in prayer like never before. I sought the Father for compassion and power. I called on the Name of Jesus to heal and deliver. I asked and passionately pleaded with the Father for an answer. This dear family, firm believers in God, and whom all live their days on mission for Jesus’ Kingdom, had literally thousands of others like me praying all over the globe. The outpouring of prayer was immense.
And, to me, God seemed so quiet.
A few days later, having received no explanation for the illness that plagued him, he died.
The family was devastated, and I, too, was heartbroken. Perhaps it was selfish of me, but I think I may have had more “why” questions of God than the immediate family. I believe in prayer, live in prayer, teach on prayer, tell people all of the time that without prayer we are powerless, and yet, I was feeling powerless because of prayer. I was “prayer-alyzed.”
The first sign of my “prayer-alysis” was when I immediately reached up to God for comfort for the family. I found disdain rise up in my soul. I couldn’t get the words out. Instead, I found myself saying, “how can I ask you to comfort them? If you are just as silent as you were when all the other prayers were said for healing, I can’t bear to see you deny them compassion.” I cried… I was rocked… I was in the midst of a spiritual crisis. I wasn’t pleased with what seemed to be the implications of this state of my spiritual being.
The “prayer-alysis” extended to every area of my conversation with God. I would reach up, almost involuntarily, to God to pray about anything and everything, and there was the roadblock. A voice in my head would whisper, “Why bother? Your prayer won’t get answered anyway.” I finally had to say to God what was on my heart. Still… silence.
The day arrived for the memorial service for this dear man of God who died unexplainably too soon and left behind a wife and two dear children, as well as a hoard of people who were blessed by his life. In the memorial service, his wife took a brave step and fully participated. She sang and testified. Her testimony gripped me. You see, her husband had the same questions I did. He said once to her while in the hospital, ”Why is it that the Holy Spirit can speak to me and lead me in a restaurant to get up and go say words to someone who needs them, and yet will not answer this prayer for healing?” At another point in the testimony she said, confronting the issue of unanswered prayer, ”What else could we do? Prayer gives us hope.” She witnessed others in the ER who were without prayer and without hope. To pray and not receive was better than no prayer at all. God is still Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient. He is Sovereign.
So, this morning I returned to some notes I had taken from a message preached by Bill Johnson in his message, “What do you do when prayers aren’t answered?” He says of unanswered prayer, ”This causes a problem. We must learn to navigate this situation without accusing God on one hand and without taking blame on ourselves. A lot of mournful prayers are subtle ways of accusing God because they say, ‘I have more compassion than you do for this problem.'”
I was guilty on both counts. It lead to being “prayer-alyzed.”
I now know that I must squelch the voice that whispers “why bother” and seek the Father. To Whom else shall I go? He has the words of life. To pray and not receive is still better than to not pray. To be prayer-alyzed is worse than to have prayers not answered.
Who am I, O man, to talk back to God?