If you’re like me, you may need the occasional reminder of just how powerful a tool for living we have in prayer. It’s easy to forget, quite simply, because we don’t get everything we pray for. And perhaps some of us, in our deepest heart, still lapse into thinking of prayer as being mostly about asking God for things. When we get what we want, our prayer was answered – praise God! When we don’t, well, we’re not quite sure what to think about that; since we know that God does not fail, and we know that God can do anything God wants to do. And so, over time, after enough losses and disappointments and “unanswered” prayers, it can all start to seem somewhat random. Some prayers get answered; some don’t. Sometimes prayer “works;” sometimes not so much. That’s how it might seem.
But there is another way to look at that; and it’s good news! Prayer is powerful and its power is not dependent on whether we get things we ask God for. The power of prayer does not lie in whether or how it moves or changes God; it lies in whether and how it changes us.
I’m working on a sermon, for this Sunday, that takes us back to Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. One of the things I’ll remind us of is that the immediate response to that prayer didn’t come off as a great success – if you define “successful prayer” as prayer followed by the desired outcome. Jesus asked God to let the cup pass, and it didn’t.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.”
These two Bible verses are among my very favorites. I find that, to the extent that I can live my life according to these verses, I can count on living in that blessed state of knowing that I am exactly where God wants me to be; doing what God would have me to do today.
It’s not always easy. In my experience, sometimes God’s direction has been so subtle that I wasn’t sure it was God’s direction, until my decision had been made and a subsequent “Aha!” moment allowed me to see, in retrospect, that God had, indeed, brought me to that place or moment in my journey. Other times, I have felt certain that God was directing my path. I just couldn’t tell you how I knew that. I just knew in that “other way of knowing.”
Conventional wisdom says that “you can’t go home again.” That is not the case for me, at this point in my life and ministry; and I am profoundly grateful for that. God has directed my path back home in more ways than one.