When I think about prayer, I see it in levels. We have our everyday “thanks for the food” prayers, our bargain prayers, our intentional prayers & our broken prayers. If you were to divide up your prayer time into these categories how would it look? How many times have you bowed your head to pray this week? Or how many times have you called out to God frustrated, angry, hurt, or maybe thankful, rejoicing, awestruck of how God has answered your prayer.
There are days when I go without talking to God and fall asleep shamelessly. Other days, I have fallen asleep pleading with God to take away the guilt, shame, and anxiety that my day has brought. I seem to be stuck on a teeter totter of either complete surrender or radio silence.
As I turn to my bible, I can’t help but think of Sarah. Here in Genesis 15 we find Abraham frustrated with God and calling out to Him asking for the son He has promised. Fast forward to chapter 17 God responds by sending visitors to tell Abraham that even in her old age Sarah will give them a son and when Sarah hears the news she laughs. At this point in the story I’m forced to stop and say to myself, “how can Sarah laugh?” Hadn’t God proved time and time again how He much He cared and how He would provide? Then I think, how many times have I been a Sarah? How many times have I laughed in disbelief? I'll pray and not believe that God will answer. I’ll ask for the burden to be taken, while I still cling to whatever is hurting me.
I was once told by a friend that God loves to hear about the little things as much as the big things. And what a crazy concept that is—that God hears, knows, and cares about it ALL. He cares enough to open your eyes to the lost car keys, to calm the nerves during an exam, to know about your relationships, your burdens, your brokenness & even so, He wants it all. And I believe that part of accepting this love is accepting ourselves just as we are. Accepting that God takes our ugly, our mess, and loves us still.
Once we accept that God loves us enough to listen to our prayers, we have to accept the waiting that it comes with. Patience is a difficult pill to swallow especially because of this mindset we tend to possess of “I want it and I need it right now.” Let’s go back to Abraham and Sarah. We see that Abraham became tired of waiting. He continually called out to God because he needed an answer, he wanted an answer and he wasn’t getting it in the time he thought was best. Again we struggle with letting go and trusting, especially in the silence.
What do we do when we don't get the a response? We take matters into our own hands, and that's exactly what Sarah did. Genesis 16 shows us the impatient side of Sarah. Her shame of not being able to have children leads her to take matters into her own hands. So she gives her servant Hagar to Abraham. Again I have to stop and say “What are you doing Sarah? Why won’t you just wait and see that God will provide?” Then I reflect on my own choices. How many times do I get tired of no answer, and start to take actions. How many times do I pray and grow weak in my waiting. I think that sometimes the waiting room is the hardest place to be. Again if God is asking us to trust Him, we must also trust His process. Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that He will make everything perfect in His time. I think that it's pretty cool that the God of the universe takes His time to give us the perfect answer. And even when we take matters into our own hands, He can still bless it and make something wonderful out of it.
So now we come to the final step of this process. We’ve accepted God's love, we’ve prayed the prayer, we’ve waited, and now we have His answer! But maybe the answer wasn't what we were looking for. Maybe it wasn't in our timing or it wasn't even a yes. What is next?? About a month ago I was brought to Psalms 35 that says “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread”. Let me repeat that one more time “I was young and now I am old yet I have NEVER seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread”. This passage hits home, when my doubt, and my confusion overwhelm me I turn to this passage. I have to remind myself that when I call out to God, when I stumble, He is still good. He will never forsake me and He will always provide for me.
I may not always get the answer I was looking for or in the timing that I wanted but He is still good. “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:26-28.
Nicole Garcia is a nursing major at Union College.