Seven years ago I hiked the spectacular Beehive Basin trail in Montana.
This past weekend I hiked it again with some friends.
My experience was crazy different.
The difference? Expectations.
Seven years ago we knew the trail was moderate to difficult.
We knew it was 3.6 miles to pristine mountain lake. So we had very specific expectations about how long it would take us and how hard it would be.
When we kept hiking and hiking and when the glorious lake and valley we were looking for did not appear, we felt frustrated and confused and disappointed. When the last part of the hike was straight up we were gasping for breath.
I thought, “This experience looked much different in my head.”
What we discovered afterwards is that we had started at the wrong trail head and took a wrong turn virtually doubling the mileage we had to cover.
Our expectations had been based on an inaccurate perception of the situation (and, ok, maybe a little pride).
This time, we started from the correct place and knew the lay of the land, but I also had less confidence in exactly how hard the hike would be and how long it would take.
God kind of bonked me on the head with how similar my hiking experiences are to my prayer experiences.
Recently I prayed a bold prayer, a risky prayer that I was sure would honor God if answered exactly in the way I prayed. He didn’t, and I was left, like on our first hike, feeling frustrated and confused.
I may have kind of said, “What’s the matter with you, God?? Don’t you see how you missed the boat on this one? Work with me here! I’ve got a plan for You!”
I’ve been thinking a lot about how bold prayer that has specific expectations regarding how God will answer may be rooted in pride and incomplete information.
However, the prayer offered with open-handed humility and an attitude of expectancy rooted in God’s faithfulness may be vague and unfocused.
What’s a girl (or guy) to do?
As crazy as it sounds, I think often we put ourselves in the position of trying to convince God that our will is the way to go (like, you know, we’re…God, and we really know the trail even though we’ve never been on it before), instead of listening and trying to discern how God would have us pray.
Might one way to get the balance between humility and boldness be to pray God’s word and listen? If there’s a promise, thank God. If there’s a command, and we’ve messed up, confess. If there’s a bold example of faith, we can ask God to show us if there are situations in our life where we need to stretch and trust Him more.
Have you prayed boldly, certain of how God will answer, and been disappointed? Or do you tend to pray vague “wimpy” prayers?