Ugly prayers

Texts I received after our talk on prayer.

Lauren got there first, a little early even, which told me two things: The girl was prompt, and she was ready to talk. I didn’t know her well, so this meeting was curious. She’d contacted me. And over a couple of chocolate mocha frappe-somethings, I was about to find out why.

A few clues gave me a heads up. Her Facebook statuses, for one, were sad lyrics announcing the obvious: Life was tough for Lauren. And because she’d reached out to me, the “Bible study lady,” chances were pretty good she wanted God’s help. (And I was pretty sure she’d get it.)

So we chatted, two almost-strangers, and got it all out. It’s not necessary to reveal specifics. Just know these struggles were painful, overwhelming. She had battled them for months with no relief in sight.

After awhile it was time for the obvious question, the one she surely knew was coming: “Have you shared with God everything you’re telling me?”

Her honesty was refreshing: “Well, sort of. But the truth is, in a weird way I want to hang on to what’s causing the pain. So I don’t pray about it much, since God might take the ‘thing’ away. I’m not sure I can leave this behind, even though it’s making me miserable. That’s messed up, huh? Bottom line, I’m not sure I want it gone.”

Oh, what familiar territory for me! The reply gushed out: “Then tell Him that, Lauren. Bring everything—every ugly, messed up feeling, weird or not—to the Lord. Admit you’re hesitant for the ‘thing’ to go. Tell Him you’re not strong enough to ask. But talk with your God! Beg Him to change your heart, even when you’re not sure you want it. Tell the truth. He can take it.”

And in that moment, Lauren got it. The prayer thing, I mean. The connection between a paralyzing struggle and a liberating God. The power of intimate prayers, even when they’re not pretty. And the realization that God wants to hear it. To handle it all, even when we’re struggling to ask Him.

After this truth sank in—praying honestly, even when it’s ugly—there was no stopping Lauren. We talked about God’s strength in her. We replaced old thoughts—the torturous ones—with new and healthy ones (straight out of Philippians 4:8). We threw around strategies for change, and she had good ideas for forging a new path. By the end of our chat, a different girl sat in front of me. This Lauren had hope, courtesy of a Father who’s all ears.

That was last week. Didn’t hear from her over the weekend, although her name was on my lips in prayer. I did notice a Facebook status, however, that was not a sad lyric at all, but a quote from a Bible devotional. Interesting. What soothing word was God whispering to the heart of a struggling daughter?

And then the texts came (see photo). New-and-much-improved Lauren, praying and listening  and searching and finding. She senses the healing of her Father, just as He’s promised. He’s that kind of God, you know, honoring every sincere utterance from every believer’s heart. And I’m so very thankful that Lauren feels it, too: “God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me!” (Psalm 66:19-20).

*********************************************

I sought the LORD, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.

They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

Psalm 34:4-7

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