The Risk of Prayer

Mike from Tibbens Towing in Clearfield, PA, backs our camper into our campsite. (Aug. 12, 2019)

 

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. –Jesus, as quoted in Luke 11:9–10 NIV

In his book, Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge, Mark Batterson tells about an African missionary whose church met beneath the shade of a tree near the village because they didn’t have a building in which to worship. The local witch doctor wasn’t too happy with that, so he cursed the tree and it withered.

When you preach Christ and His power, when you preach an awesome God who can do the impossible, when you preach the powerful presence of the indwelling Spirit, you better be ready to stand firm. Trials always come to test your faith, especially when you proclaim it.

In response, the missionary called for a public prayer meeting during which he laid hands on the tree and asked God to resurrect it.

In public. Where everyone could hear him.

“If God doesn’t answer his prayer,” Batterson wrote, “he would have dug an even deeper hole. That’s the risk of prayer, isn’t it?”

That made me think. How often do we say “safe” prayers, all in the realm of the possible? Do we have the courage to pray the impossible prayers? Or do we pray them, but give ourselves an out?

“Sometimes,” Batterson noted, “God calls us to ante up all the faith we have, and then let the chips fall where they may.”

When I read this devotional, appropriately titled “Shameless Audacity,” DH and I were in a real pickle. Two days earlier the transmission went in our pickup while towing the camper to the campground. Now, while we sat at the campground, the truck sat in the towing company’s lot, waiting for us to decide what to do with it.

Rebuilding the transmission would cost anywhere from $3,800 to $4,600. With taxes coming due in another month, the fuel oil tank needing replenished before winter, DH retired for nearly a year, and us living on a very limited income, where would the money come from? The extended warranty (that’s another story) expired in April.

It just so happened (translate: God-thing) a Christian couple were camped a few sites up from us. On one of his walks around the campground, DH stopped and talked to them. They, as well as everyone in the campground, knew of our predicament. After all, a tow truck had backed our camper in our site then left with our truck.

So they prayed with DH—that the truck would be fixed at no cost to us! Now that’s a bold prayer!

Bold prayers take bold faith. Shameless audacity.

Shameless means disregard for that others may say or think. Audacity is a willingness to take bold risks.

Faith calls us to believe nothing is impossible with God. “It’s the impossible prayers that honor God because they reveal our faith and allow God to reveal His glory,” Batterson noted.

I thought about the impossible scenarios in the Bible: the Red Sea parting and the Israelites walking across on dry ground. The walls of Jericho falling down flat without a hand touching them. Barren Sarah and 100-year-old Abraham having a baby. The virgin birth of Jesus. His miracles. His resurrection.

God specializes in the impossible!

If God can speak the universe into being, can He not take our impossible situations and turn them into HIM-possible ones?

I still don’t know where the money is going to come from to pay for the transmission. But I do know Jesus said to ask, seek, and knock. He promises that what we ask will be provided, what we seek we’ll find, and the door will open when we knock.

Oh, yes, the withered tree … “Not only did God break the curse and resurrect the tree,” Batterson wrote, “it became the only tree of its type to yield its fruit not once, but twice a year. A double crop! A double blessing!”

What impossible situation are you faced with today? What bold prayer do you need to pray?

Remember, sometimes you’ve got to ante up all the faith you have, pray with shameless audacity, and let the chips fall where they may.

Dear God, give me the holy boldness to pray the impossible prayers. Amen.

Read and reflect on Luke 11:5–9; 18:1–8; James 1:2–4.

© 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Forging a New Normal

Arthritis pain in the lower back, or lumbar region.

It wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

After months of nearly constant lower back pain that increasingly worsened, trips to two doctors (my PCP and my orthopaedic doctor), X-rays, and a CT scan, I made an appointment with the spine surgeon who’d operated on my neck eight years ago. That surgery went well, and I was able to resume my normal life after recovery. I’d hoped the same would be true this time.

“I want to walk and hike again without pain,” I told the nurse who compiled my information. As well as sleep without the constant ache that invaded my slumber and woke me up through the night.

“I can’t promise you that,” she said.

Surgery wasn’t an option. Operating on the lower back, as opposed to operating on the neck, is a totally different ballgame.

There is no cure for my diagnosis: degenerative arthritis, also called osteoarthritis. Add to the mix scoliosis, a slight curving of the spine in same area as the arthritis. This, I was told, is probably why I have pain, stiffness, and a feeling of instability when I wake up or when I work at the kitchen counter. The back brace I bought helps some.

Instead of surgery, what the doctor prescribed was physical therapy, cortisone shots, and various medications. No quick fix.

No fix at all, as far as I was concerned. I’d rather pursue natural remedies when it comes to health issues. I wanted to avoid the injections. Research into the prescribed medicines revealed two of the three would interact with my blood pressure medicine.

What it boils down is a lifestyle change. Just what I want as I approach the seventh decade of life.

Of course I had my grumbling, complaining, pouting sessions. I’ve been grumbling and complaining for months. My poor little flock (I’m the lay pastor for a small church in Punxsutawney)—they graciously listened to me gripe every week. And DH—the word longsuffering was coined for this man.

What now?

Time to put on my big girl britches and deal with it. Learn to live with it. Without kvetching.

Forge a new normal. Alter my horizons, change my goals, adjust the pace at which I tackle my day. Shorten that to-do list and incorporate physical therapy, exercise, walking, stretches, rest, and meal planning. Educate myself through research.

In addition to pursuing my dream of writing. Sitting for long periods of time is a no-no, but unfortunately that’s par for the writer’s course. So I bought a Fitbit, which reminds me to get up and walk every hour.

It never ceases to amaze me how God meets us in our deepest valleys.

During my quiet time, I’ve been reading Draw the Circle: The 40-Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson. Not following the day-by-day readings, but choosing the selections randomly.

As I wrestled with the diagnosis and the resulting life changes this past week, God led me to Day 4: “Don’t Pray Away.” Batterson related the story of a couple whose three-year-old son fell from a second-story window and was permanently paralyzed.

Here’s what John Tiller, the father, wrote: “It was time to accept his current condition and choose  to live life with disability.… Instead of getting discouraged or getting angry, I choose to look for what God can do.”

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

“Sometimes,” wrote Batterson, “the purpose of prayer is to get out of circumstances, but more often than not, the purpose of prayer is to get us through them.”

There was nothing random about choosing this selection on that particular day, a day when I needed those words the most.

What a God!

Lord, please give me “the grace to sustain me, the strength to stand firm, and the willpower to keep on keeping on.”* It is only through Your grace and strength I can do this. Amen.

*From “Don’t Pray Away,” The 40-Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson, p. 34.

Read and reflect on 2 Corinthians 12:7–10.

© 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.