The other night I was with some friends and we were discussing how we should pray. My response was, “With faith.” I was questioned, and I shared that the recent physical struggle and subsequent death of a childhood friend was still bothering me. I had prayed that he would recover physically and be reunited with his family, but I am working through the fact that I did not believe it would happen.
Let me clarify something. I do not believe God was incapable of doing it. I just did not believe that even while I prayed for it, that He would do it. I prayed even using the phrases, “Have Your will,” and “Be glorified in this.” I have to be honest and say that I was not using them for the right reasons, but rather as a way to pacify the guilt I felt for having such a doubt about the healing of my friend.
So, the result, my friend is in Heaven. I have no doubt about that. Things turned out just the way I thought they would. So how do I process this as I move forward? How do I look at my prayer life in the future when faced with a need for prayer? Should I hang a little sign that says my prayers cannot be trusted?
I guess I am struggling with guilt. God is sovereign, and He will be glorified in the things He does. I know that and I understand that He has a plan that I may not understand with my limited sight. If I had prayed and believed, and my friend was still taken, I would still feel grief, but I would know that God had a plan. My struggle is with the fact that I asked but did not believe. It was not unbelief of His power, nor was it a defiant attitude of my will rather than His. It was something else, and it is not easy to put my finger on it – or explain it.
So, this leaves me in a position of trying to figure out what to do with something I don’t really understand and cannot really explain. I need to move forward, and I need to trust God that He will help me with that. Enter FAITH. It is the only thing that will open the door to the peace and understanding that I need. As I see it at this point I have a few things that I need to address as I look back on this:
- Was my unbelieving prayer a lie to God? As I think it over, I’m still not sure. If nothing else, it still needs to be addressed as something I should and have acknowledged with Him. I am reminded of the man in Luke 9 who told Jesus that he believed, but asked Jesus to help him with his unbelief. The actual exercise of prayer is what is required to help us with our belief. As we continue to take that request to God, and stay close to Him, He may change our hearts as we begin to see a part of His plan. That would transition unbelief to belief.
- Was my prayer sincere? In the fact that I wanted healing for my friend, yes it definitely was sincere. When I asked for His will to be done, I’m not as sure. If I really wanted His will to be done, would my prayer have been different? Probably so. I would have focused less on His power to heal and more on His power to transform lives through this. I would have focused less on physical healing and more on spiritual growth. I would have focused less on not wanting my friend’s family to suffer loss, and more on the peace that He would provide them no matter the outcome.
- What is the source of my guilt? Do I feel that I let my friend down and that he is gone because of my lack of faith, or is it because I have sinned against God? Well, I think it is a bit of both, but in reality, I know that he did not die because my prayer was not what it should have been. Rather it was for God to do a work in lives that would not have been done in any other way. There may be things that his family will face with God at their side that they might not have been able to do before. There are people who will hear his wife’s story of love, devotion, and faith that will be touched. So, I can (and have) ask God for His forgiveness and I know that it will (and has) be given to me as it says in I john 1:9. I also need to address the lie that Satan is putting in my mind that says it is my fault my friend did not survive – If only I had prayed harder and really believed. This is an attempt to pull me away from prayer. There is nothing he would like more than that.
The importance of prayer has been hitting me from several angles lately. It has always been a weak part of my Christian walk, and I am recognizing that more now. The events of the past few weeks have made it clear to me that the spiritual battle that goes on around us is always the most intense in the area of prayer. If Satan can pull me from prayer, he has effectively cut me off from communicating with God, and if I am cut off from God I will fall. I can read His Word, but my communication with Him is the other part of that relationship that I desperately need.
I am working on developing a new strategy for my prayer life, and I am starting with the prayer that it becomes a more natural communication rather than a ritual. As I work to grow in this I will ask God to help me, and I believe that He will. He tells us of His desire to hear from us as children speaking to their father. I want to model this for my family as well.
Am I completely over this bad feeling? No. Not yet. But I know I will be. I recognize God’s open hand to me as He wants to help me through it. He gets the glory in taking my weakness and carrying me through with His strength.