I’ve been deeply impacted when I’ve prayed afraid.
"Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine." - Matthew 22:44
Have you ever prayed and been afraid of what God might do? Maybe you desperately didn’t want something to happen? Or you were afraid something would never happen? You wanted a spouse. You were separating from one. You faced loss or chronic illness.
The prayers below were truly hard for me to pray. I was afraid when I prayed them. But it turns out that they were also some of the most valuable prayers of my life - even the ones that weren’t answered how I wanted them to be.
Most of these prayers are about control. About me losing control. How do I trust God with the most precious parts of my life? How do I trust God when I’m devastated about something that He has let happen to me? What happens when my faith requires radical obedience, accepting things that I don’t want? This is genuine prayer, and I believe that’s what God wants. Genuine prayer allows for genuine feelings, and sometimes that’s frustration, anger or even a hair-raising feeling of fear and doubt.
These are the three times in my life when I've been afraid to pray:
1. Before Saying ‘I Do’
Do you ever wish you could give advice to your younger self? Why did I think that getting married would be easy? Nadia and I dated for three great years - most of it long distance at different graduate schools. When we finally got ready to get married and move to the same city, I fell into a huge personal crisis.
I realized that by getting married I was giving up control of my life. Every important decision to me -- about my time, my career, my finances, my friendships -- could be influenced or even decided by someone else! Seriously??? And I want this? Sure, I could imagine awesome joy from our friendship, romance, kids, and grandkids. But was I prepared to serve and love Nadia no matter what? Who would she be in ten years? In thirty years? How could I commit to that person, who I only knew in part? I was choosing to give up control, and it literally gave me the chills.
I prayed openly, honestly, and totally afraid:
“Lord, is this who you want me to be with? Is the Nadia ten or twenty or thirty years from now the woman you’ll want me to be with? Will I be right for her? If not, make it clear. Make it plain. If it is right, give us both peace and faithfulness to do this.”
It took weeks of reflection, and those weeks were tense! Nadia wondered if I was losing it. I wondered if I was losing it! In the end, I believe that God, Nadia and I all arrived at the same answer: ‘Yes!’ Wrestling with this was a blessing for me -- I questioned with God, and He answered whether I should get married to Nadia. Now I don’t no question if we should stay married.
2. When You Aren’t Healed
A doctor tells you that your body is broken, and you will never really be right again. I don't know many things more terrifying. The year after Nadia and I got married, I lost 30 pounds in one month. I’m over six feet tall, and I dropped to a meager 145 pounds. After several tests, we found out that my pancreas had quit working. I had ‘late child onset’ diabetes. If treated poorly, it would cripple me and ultimately kill me. I would need multiple injections and changes in my habits every day for the rest of my life.
I said: "Really, God? Is that what you have in store for me?"
For weeks, I cried out for healing. I prayed for deliverance from diabetes. But nothing seemingly miraculous happened. I did respond well to treatment, exceptionally well in fact. I came to the realization that I could still do everything that God wanted me to do. In fact, everything I wanted to do.
I also realized my humanity in a very deep sense. It forced me to deal with deeper issues of pride. I am not above anyone else. I am not immune to suffering or stigma or shame, and I should hold none of those things against anyone else. I am an image bearer of God just like everyone else. I’m also in need of God’s healing, just like everyone else.
3. When Your Child Suffers
When my daughter was three, she started getting large, strange patches of totally white skin. It was spreading every week. The doctors said she had something called vitiligo, a condition that causes portions of your skin to turn albino white. In the extreme cases, it can cover large parts of your body and greatly change how you look and how other people see you. There’s no cure and no good treatments exist. Week after week, I watching this vitiligo spread on my beautiful daughter. The pain hit me even harder than my own diabetes.
I prayed: ‘Lord, why are you letting this happen? Can you just stop it?”
Praying for our children stretches the depth of our trust in God. We can’t ultimately heal them. We won’t always be there for them. We can’t force them to make the right decisions. They need God to walk alongside them in life to do this, because I am only human.
God has blessed us that it has stopped spreading. Part of her pigment has even been naturally restored. And I praise God for that. Why did God heal this and and not the diabetes? I don’t know, but I’m not going to complain.
Whatever you are going through, God loves your genuine prayers. Here are some prayers that may help:
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