I preface this saying that this post is based on a series of sermons that my pastor at Leonardtown Baptist Church has been giving over the last few weeks...
So, I'm going to be very transparent here. I have been mulling over the purpose of prayer for several weeks. A dear friend and I talked about it and she had such a good statement: Without communication, there is no relationship. So, at the very least, prayer is necessary for a relationship with God.
I also know the Bible tells us to pray. Jesus prayed. He told us HOW to pray. So, obviously, we are to pray.
BUT...here's my struggle. What is it that I am to pray for? If I believe as I claim, that there is a plan for each and every life and God knows it from the beginning to end, what is my prayer for? Is it going to change the way something happens? How could it, if the 'plan' is the 'plan' regardless of my prayer for something different. Moreover, if we are asking God to intercede and heal people, on what basis are we asking that? And even more pressing, on what basis does He decide to do that? Why does He pick one baby to save and not mine? Were our prayers not good enough? Had we prayed harder, or more people had prayed, would that have changed anything? I can't believe that it would--because if it did, that means that enough fervent prayer could have saved Matthew and that just doesn't sit right with me. Especially in light of the fact that I know people around the world were praying.
So...when we ask people to pray and heal someone--if it happens, we claim miracle. If it doesn't, we claim what? God said, "No," to that prayer? Maybe...but then that makes one start asking questions that I have thus far not: "Why NOT?" "Why NO to my son?" And again, I go back to my belief that God is not up in Heaven plucking babies for a plan. Nor do I believe He needed another angel--He's GOD for Pete's sake! He needs NOTHING from us. Nor do I think He created Matthew, saw what a beautiful little boy he was and said, "Hmm...should have kept that one. Taking him back."
As I said, I am clearly, CLEARLY struggling with prayer. I have been hard-pressed to offer any to God out loud. I'm relying on the prayers John offers for our food and our days. I'm relying on the prayers of our many friends and family. I'm relying on the Holy Spirit to offer my prayers for me because I am just having a hard time doing it myself.
But today...the service today did not really give me the "Aha! THAT's what I was looking for!" with reference to my understanding the purposes of prayer and what we are to petition God for, but it DID bring to light something else. Though I sat and cried and cried as he spoke, I know what he said was for me.
We have been discussing the various names of God. Two weeks ago, we discussed God as I AM--our All and All. Last week, he preached on Jehovah-Jireh--God as our Provider.
Today was Jehovah-Rophe--God as our Healer. I knew it would be hard to sit through, as things are still so raw. My pastor talked about how God takes away our bitterness as our Healer. He used the story of Moses taking Israel out of Egypt--they got through the Red Sea only to find the water on the other side was bitter. He delivered them...and made the bitter water sweet. Then, as many Southern Baptist preachers do (and possibly one reason I love being a Baptist because the sermons are so nice and grammatically geometric!), he made his second alliterative point:
God heals through deliverance...My pastor said something like this: "We ask if God still heals? Does He still heal? How can we say he does when we pray and people aren't healed? Is He still healing? Yes, He is.
He heals: 1) through doctors;
He heals: 2) through deliverance of circumstance
He heals: 3) and this one is the one no one wants to hear or talk about, but is nonetheless precious healing, He heals through death."
That's right. He delivers us from the horrors of this world through death.
Now, trust me...sitting there this morning, listening to that, I thought, "DEATH is better than my arms??? DEATH is better than Matthew's mother???"
And if I am really true, and believe what I say, it is.
In death, Matthew is whole. He is not hurting. He does not cry. He is literally at the feet of Jesus. And though it may not be better to us, it is certainly better in God's eyes.
My pastor is right. No one, including me, feels comfortable saying that death better than life on this earth.--But like I said, if we REALLY believe what we claim, then as uncomfortable as we are, it's truth nonetheless--what can be better than the feet of Jesus?
SO--the point of this all is that in my struggle for the purpose of my prayer to God...my heartfelt and deepest prayer to God that my little boy would be ok...my prayer was answered and it wasn't "No." It was death. Death on this earth. The loss of him in my arms. The ache I will feel for the rest of my natural life.
It's my arrogance and desperation as a human and a mother that tries to cloud Heaven being better than my arms. It's my rebellion in wanting what I WANT. And yes, I know it's because I am human that I am this way and I feel that I am totally justified in the feelings. Well, maybe not justified in the truest sense, but certainly justified as a human feeling them.
My beliefs are being challenged on a constant basis. Hourly I make decisions to trust what I know has to be true. This morning was hard, and did challenge my beliefs...but in my pastor being honest and approaching something that we as humans who love life don't want to hear--he helped answer a question that has been raging in my mind for days and days.
That rare, tiny piece of clarity seems to be so far from me so much of the time. I am grateful for it today.
For the record: I HAVE learned that in prayer, I need to be far, far more specific.