“I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.” – Mother Teresa
For years I prayed. I prayed late into the night. I prayed first thing…
in the morning. I huddled in stalls in public restrooms and prayed. I prayed at stop lights. I prayed in dark movie theaters with tears running down my cheeks, relieved that no one could see, embarrassed that I couldn’t hold it in. I prayed at church, while reading my bible, while doing the dishes, in traffic on my way home from work. I prayed for miracles. I prayed for God to change my relationships. I prayed for God to intervene. To make things different. To make things happy. To make things normal. To fix things. To heal. To just… do something.
And as far as most of those big prayers went, the answer was no. Years passed. Years and years of the bitterest no’s. Not only did he not intervene, not only did he not fix things, but some of them, the ones I held closest to my heart, he answered back with a resounding no.
No, he didn’t fix it. No, he didn’t heal her. No, he didn’t change that person’s heart. No, he didn’t give me peace. I resented the prayers that rested in my mouth like ashes.
I thought, “What was the point? What was the point of sitting in pews and reading scripture and asking and begging God day after day after day?”
At this point you’re probably raising your eyebrows. You’re no doubt thinking, “Eh, Liz? This is massively depressing.”
I don’t mean for it to be.
I do mean for it to be truthful.
But here’s what I’ve learned. The creator of all that is is not, NOT, a genie in a bottle. Sometimes, a lot of times, he does not swoop in and reconcile the impossible for us. He can. And does sometimes. And sometimes he doesn’t.
(Not rocket science, I know.)
I’ve learned that sometimes there is no miracle, at least not the way we expect it. I’ve learned that he can’t always change other people. But all those prayers? They were changing me.
I’ve had this chart pinned behind my desk at work for years. And one day, looking at it, something clicked. For so long I prayed and waited. For the first few years of my adult life I waited in a state of confusion. I didn’t fully understand what was happening, I only knew something was dreadfully wrong. Then for the next few years I did know what was happening, and I prayed for a miracle and was patient. But as the years wore on, my patience waned. My self confidence was in the toilet. My hope became dim.
Again, I know. It’s depressing right? Oy with the poodles, Liz.
But I’ve realized, after years and years and years, maybe he was waiting for me.
To change something inside myself.
As C.S. Lewis said, “Experience: the most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
Make no mistake. I believe God is capable of creating great change. I believe miracles happen. But I don’t believe he intends for me to order my life and belief system around said miracles. I believe he expects me to do something.
He expects me to change.
He expects me to live.
There are times when there is nothing to do but wait on that miracle, like right now. Today people very dear to me are hurting. Their baby is sick. No one knows exactly what will happen. None of us understand why. Our hearts ache inside our chests.
And once again, the prayers are going up.
Can God heal their baby? Yes. Will he? Please pray that he will make it so.
Because no matter what happens, prayers are never in vain. They call down for miracles. But they also create miracles of change inside us.
Prayers are never unheard.
And prayers are are never, ever, wasted.