I’m going to be teaching on The Lord’s Prayer throughout Lent.
I feel like a hypocrite.
It’s not that I don’t pray, I do. It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of prayer, I do. It’s not that prayer isn’t a huge part of what we do at South Fellowship and a part of the leadership’s approach to following Jesus, it is.
It’s just that for the last 2 years prayer has been a struggle for me. Ironically, it hasn’t been a struggle because I doubt the power of God; it’s been a struggle because I am whole-heartedly convinced of the sovereignty of God and of the scripture’s testimony that He moves through the prayers of His people. Some people wrestle in prayer because they doubt on a core level that God responds to and hears the prayers of his people; I believe that he does with every fiber of my being.
For two years I have struggled in prayer because on December 1, 2013 my mom died.
We surrounded her as a church Body and prayed over her. The ministry that my brother helps lead (called Revel) did the same. The church that my brother-in-law pastors followed suit. We all went to the Lord asking Him to heal, asking Him to move, asking Him to give a good gift to some of His kids; a gift that we believed would have served to honor and glorify His name! And He said, “No.”
I’m not sure that I’ll ever fully understand that “no.” I’m not sure that I’ll really completely come to terms with The Father’s refusal to heal; at least in the way we were hoping that He would. The grief is still so deep. I know they say that time heals all wounds; while time is beginning to act as a healing balm of sorts, there’s still a cavernous void her laughter used to fill. I’m not sure that will ever change, and I’m not sure I really want it to.
In beginning to study prayer, I realized just how much baggage I bring into the discussion. It was baggage that in many ways I grown so used to that I didn’t know it was there. I’m guessing many people feel that same way. There’s a reason that so few people who love Jesus would say that their prayer life is vibrant and growing. The fact that I’m in ‘good company’ doesn’t seem to offer a lot of solace in the moment. As I began to look more closely at prayer, I was immediately aware that this was far more than an intellectual endeavor, it was a sacred pilgrimage where the Father was inviting me to see and respond to His heart.
The Lord spoke to me; and I don’t use that term lightly.
He spoke clearly.
He spoke healing.
He spoke life.
He spoke reality.
He spoke through His Word.
In preparation for the series, I was reading through different passages on prayer. One of the stories that has been a formative for me is God’s interaction with Hezekiah. You may know the story, but if you don’t, here it is in a nutshell. Hezekiah was one of the (few) good kings of Judah. He was faithful to the Lord. He became very ill and the prophet Isaiah came to him and instructed him to get his house in order because this illness was going to take his life (2 Kings 20:1). Listen to Hezekiah’s prayer and God’s response:
 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying,  “Now, O LORD, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.  And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him:  “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD,  and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.” (2 Kings 20:2-6)
Wow. What grace! We don’t get a lot of the backstory; why Hezekiah was going to die, how God sparred his life, or any of those type of details that I would have liked. We simply have the statement that God extended Hezekiah’s life. He gave Hezekiah 15 more years!
As I was reading through the story and praying through what that must have been like, I sensed the Lord whisper to me, “Your mom is like Hezekiah.” There’s a bit of a back story, so bear with me. In February of 2001, my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. They have come a long way in cancer treatments since the early 2000’s, but back then Stage 4 Lymphoma sounded like a death sentence. Being a family of faith, the first thing we did was pray. We had all of the churches we were connected with praying! In addition, my brother and I were serving in Young Life and we hosted a prayer night where dozens of young people gathered to ask the Lord to touch my mom.
And HE MOVED!
Within weeks my mom was approved to be part of a study where she would be piloting a new drug. They didn’t have a lot of information on it; they described it to us as a “seek-and-destroy” chemo. The chemo was designed to only attack the cancer cells. There were no promises, she was part of only a handful of people nation-wide that were ‘testing’ out this new drug. It turned out to be a miracle drug for my mom.
It gave her 12 more years of life!
God spared my mom. He gave her 12 more years of vibrant life. She got to see her first grand child born, she got to see two out of three kids married, she got to breath deeply of the grace that God showered down on her as a wife, mom, and grandma! There were 12 years of conversations we got to share, memories we had the chance to make, and laughs we got to share. I’m not sure I’ve really put together just how blessed we were to have that time. It was and still is a gift from God.
I’ve realized that for me, it’s far easier to identify the times God doesn’t answer my prayers than the times when He does. I think to a certain extent, that’s our human nature. But, I want to war against it with everything in me. I want to fight to see His good and gracious hand. I want to strive to see the way that He is at work; and then I want to thank him for it! I’m convinced that this is part of the discipline and delight of prayer.
For the last two years I’ve wrestled with the Lord. I’ve struggled with why God didn’t heal my mom; and somewhere along the line I lost sight of the fact that HE DID. He gave her 12 more years. When God spoke that to me, it was like the floodgates of grace and blessing released into my life and soul. It’s only been a few days, but it’s already changed the way I pray.
He’s a good, good Father. That’s who He is.
And I’m loved by Him. That’s who I am!