Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:8-9, NIV
As soon as her pastor announced the topic, she began to put up barriers. She had long since given up on prayer. When she was younger, she kneeled next to her grandma many times as they prayed for all sorts of things. During childhood, she followed all the rules, and her prayers were always answered. Grandma always said, “Why not ask?” So, she asked for anything and everything. The best dolls for Christmas, the best grades in school, the best date to prom, and the best material things money could buy. She had it all. Then, it happened. God stopped answering her prayers.
She remembered the time she asked for her grandma to be healed from her stroke; the time she prayed for the pain of her college rape to go away as she had the abortion; the time the prophet convinced her to give a seed offering of $100 as she prayed against the eviction during medical school.
As her pastor preached, she continued to remember each unanswered prayer, especially the one to save her marriage, after the one to save their baby. The miscarriage reminded her of the abortion. She just knew God no longer heard her voice, that God no longer cared, that God no longer answered her prayers, specifically.
While she didn’t believe in prayer, she believed in God. Even though she didn’t want to admit it, she secretly hoped that if she was good enough, worked hard enough, and was generous enough at church, God would start answering her prayers again. She needed God’s help in this new situation that she was facing at work that could end her career.
She was lost in her thoughts, but what the pastor said next broke her barrier. When she focused on his face, he was looking dead at her when he said, “Why not ask?” He must have said it a few times because everyone around her was shouting, “Why not ask!” He kept saying it until finally, the only thing she could hear was her grandma’s question ringing in her ears.
Her pew neighbor handed her a tissue and helped her make it to the altar. The older woman knelt beside her, held her hand, and started praying for her. She was so caught up in the moment, she didn’t have time to do anything but cry and allow all the barriers to God to come down until there was nothing but her tears. The more she cried the more the woman held her hand. Eventually, a whole group of elders was praying for her.
When it was all said and done, she didn’t know if God would answer her prayer, but she knew that God had heard her. Somehow, that was more important than the answer.
Now it’s our turn…
Let’s be honest. Sometimes our prayers are like Hannah in the temple, Peter in post-resurrection times, and Joshua at the Battle of Jericho. At other times, they are like Moses wanting to see the Promised Land, Paul asking for the thorn to be gone, and Jesus asking for the bitter cup of death to pass him. Prayer is no magic pill. Many times, most times, prayer is more like a deep conversation with a best friend than a wish spoken to a genie in a bottle. Still, God says to us, “Why not ask?”
Prompt for Thought: Where do you stand when it comes to prayer? Think of a time when you didn’t get the answer you want. How did God’s grace show up in your life?
Prayer for the Journey: God, teach us to pray, help us to pray, help us to know that unanswered prayers are not always about us, and help us to believe that you always hear us no matter the outcome. In Jesus Name, Amen.