Today, my friend and fellow women's ministry dreamer, Courtney, is sharing her outlook on prayer. (Spoiler alert: it's beautiful!).
A lost job. A horrible diagnosis. A broken relationship. Loneliness. Not being able to conceive a child. Loss of a loved one. Being persecuted for your faith. How do you pray when life has dealt you some terrible circumstances? How do you truly talk to God about life’s most difficult and painful situations?
If you’re like me, when life seems to be going the right way, you have probably gotten into the habit of asking God for things not so unlike a wish list to Santa or a genie in a bottle. I know I catch myself asking for trivial things under my breath. We all have prayed for the good parking spot at Wal-mart or for our boss to be in a good mood when you want to ask for vacation or for our children to sleep a little later on a weekend morning. Really, they’re usually pretty selfish and trivial things we “pray” for. While that’s a whole other conversation for another day, the danger of that is we find ourselves in the habit of asking for things like a child asking a parent for one more toy or snack. But then life really throws us a blow. I mean a painful one... one that isn’t trivial in the least bit. And we don’t really know how to pray.
We suddenly have one of those real situations with desperate needs. We are struggling with deep felt emotions and hurts. We’re scared or heartbroken, burdened by real emotions. Suddenly our wish list is a desperate plea for financial security, healing from a life changing diagnosis, a job situation, for a family member or friend that is hurting deeply, healing for a relationship, for a child, the list goes on and on. But if our prayers stop with simply saying God please give me _____, we’re missing out on so much.
We’re missing out on the second half of the prayer. The part where the conversation happens; where we give thanks in the midst of pain; where we have nothing left to stand on but His promises. The second half prayer is where we completely surrender ourselves to the will of God and find a way to praise Him despite the difficult circumstances. It’s where our faith is tested and purified.
Three of our favorite Old Testament heroes of faith displayed a dramatic but perfect second half prayer for us. King Nebuchadnezzar was about to throw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into a fiery furnace because they would not compromise their faith by worshiping his god. Facing a certain and horrific death, they declare “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods.” (Daniel 3:17-18) They boldly claim that God can perform any miracle (put your fiery furnace need in here) and with confidence of their salvation know that they will eventually be delivered from their persecution. And then they say, but even if he does not... we will not compromise our faith.
Job, just after losing all of his property and wealth, the death of all of his servants and then his children, declares “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21)
The second half prayer declares with as much confidence as you can muster “but if not, You’re still good.” We are supposed to bring our requests, our needs, our wants to God. We are supposed to ask him for all those things above... the healing, security, desires for a child, relationship. We can ask with complete confidence that if it is in His will, He can give us anything we ask for. But in the asking, we should also surrender completely to His sovereignty, to His greater plan, to what will bring Him the most glory. In the asking, we also have to remember that our faith and our salvation have nothing to do with our earthly circumstances. That surrender and acknowledgement that God is good even if my circumstances are not brings with it the ultimate peace and knowing that regardless of the outcome, we are surrounded by God’s grace and salvation. And we are reassured that whatever pain, and however deep it is, serves a purpose... to refine us and glorify Him.
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9
I’ve had to pray that second half prayer a couple of times and both times it was the scariest prayer I’ve ever prayed. It took every last ounce of strength I had inside and an awful lot of broken tears to say, “but if you choose not to give me this, I trust that you are still good and that you have a plan greater than the one I can see right now.” But it was a complete prayer that brought with it immediate growth of my faith. It brought peace that was truly inexplicable. It brought with it the ability to give up a façade of control over my life and place my life in the hands of a God who loves me more than I can imagine. It makes facing life’s next trial tremendously easier. The second half prayer makes it possible to find thankfulness in the midst of some real heart shattering pain.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Courtney is a former engineer and now at home wife to her incredible husband and mom to her adorable daughter. She is a co-writer at Our Not So Engineered Life where she loves to tell the story God gave her about finding faith, grace and purpose through infertility and now in motherhood. She leads a women's Bible study group and loves serving God through bringing comfort and encouragement to others who are walking through a difficult season of life. She has an addiction to coffee, chocolate and time spent laughing with girlfriends.
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