Last Saturday, I awoke to the feeling of nausea , and within 45 minutes I was hugging the toilet. With that, I began a day of wallowing around in bed and aching like I’d been given tetanus shots all over my body.
As I lay there suffering, Renee, my two-year-old, walked into my bedroom. She’s grown much more attached to me lately, and Saturday is usually a day we spend time playing together – but it wasn’t happening that day.
She drew close to the bed and looked at me grimly.
“Dah-dee?” she said, as if she were wondering if I were going to die before the end of the day.
“Hey, girl,” I said. And then in a hazy stupor, I asked, “Can you pray for me?”
Renee’s head dropped to her chest, and she clasped her hands together. I smiled. She still can’t talk very well, so I knew I would have to help her.
“Okay, repeat after me,” I said, “Dear Father.”
“Fah-der,” she echoed. And as I gave her the words to pray, she repeated them as well as she could, until at the end when she said “amen” by herself.
I want to be more like Renee.
A Roof Over My Head
Six weeks before I began law school, I didn’t have a place to live, and the only spaces available were overpriced apartments.
As I stood in the kitchen thinking about it one day, I suddenly felt an urge to pray, “Father, please give me an affordable apartment that is attached to the back of a widow’s home in a quiet area.” I was surprised by my own specificity, but it seemed like it was just the right thing to pray.
Two weeks later, I received a phone call from the Dean of Admissions, who knew I was looking for a place to live.
“Joshua,” she said, “I don’t know what you’d think about this, but there is an elderly widow who has an apartment attached to the back of her home. She lives in a quiet area beside some woods, and she only charges a total of $250 a month for the space and utilities. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in?”
“Yes,” I said. “Absolutely.”
I could hardly believe it.
Several years later, I put down the phone after talking with Marci, one of three people who interviewed me for a job I had earnestly prayed for. She said that my other two interviewers spoke very positively about me, and the only thing left was for me to talk to the head manager. It was pretty much a done deal.
I prayed with excitement, recognizing God’s hand in getting me such a great job – until I got the rejection letter from the head manager, who didn’t even take the time to interview me. I was stunned, but before I could get bitter about it, I stopped and did my best to sincerely thank God for closing the door.
God knows how many times I prayed about my future spouse.
I would get interested in a young woman and begin fervently praying about the relationship. Then momentum would begin to gather – and inevitably grind to a halt. Over and over again, the same pattern repeated itself.
Over time, it was hard to tell whether I was actually praying, or if I was just spiritualizing the act of talking about my romatic dreams out loud. And if I actually was praying, then the answer was apparently no – again and again – until it wasn’t. Finally, after years of waiting, my wife was there at the moment when I needed her the most.
Like a Child
The other morning, when Renee came into my room and “prayed” for me, I was deeply touched. It didn’t matter that she repeated the words I said, and it didn’t matter that she really had no idea what she was doing. All I wanted was to get well, and she was playing her little part in making that happen (in fact, I did get better by the end of the day).
Sometimes, like Renee, I’m so aware of my Father’s direction that I feel like I’m praying along with Him, rather than to Him. But so many other times, I pray halfway-aimless prayers, some which are answered with a “yes,” but plenty which receive a “no” or “not yet.”
Jesus taught that we “always ought to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1, NKJV). I think He taught us that because even when we pray halfway-aimless prayers that are riddled with distraction, we are drawing near to our Father. And when we draw near to Him, I think He is moved – just as much as I was moved by my daughter last Saturday morning.
No doubt it was unforgettable to watch Renee almost perfectly repeat the prayer that I taught her. But more than anything, my heart was moved that she came to my room because she wanted to be with me.
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Thank you — great reminder after so many closed doors and what seem like fruitless prayers.
Thanks for the reminder Josh, to be unceasing in prayer no matter what, as we do not know what unseen things God in His providence is working out in our lives or the lives of those around us.
Love the part where Renee went to the place she knew you'd be!"My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8
Thank you brother. Your words reminded m e about the true purpose of prayer!
You talk about prayers that are answered with a "yes," "no" or "not yet" – how do you know what the answer is? I mean, how can you tell the (very important) difference between a "no" and a "not yet"? And how exactly do you "draw near to Him"? I've tried to do that for the past two years and I've failed miserably.
I don't know how you can tell the difference between "no" and "not yet" – time usually does a good job of working that one out. And in terms of drawing near to Him, I think it helps to recognize that He's already there, to practice being aware that He's closer than your skin, working through circumstances, people, and the spiritual realm for the good of you and others.
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