“I look at God, I look at you, and I keep looking at God.” —Julian of Norwich
I’m in the ministry so I naturally get a lot of prayer requests. People figure it’s in my job description.
But lately it seems like there are so many more prayers than ever. So much pain, so much heaviness.
There’s all the cancer (which, let’s face it, could fill a prayer book alone), and infertility and loneliness, and job-searching, and broken relationships, not to mention that world-going-to-hell-in-a-hand-basket stuff.
I go to sleep praying and when I wake in the middle of the night I figure it’s God poking me and it’s time to pray again. I get a note or a phone call or I see someone and I try to pray in the moment. But sometimes it just feels soooo heavy. Like too much.
But here’s what I think we get wrong. We talk about feeling “burdened” by prayer and certainly we are concerned about our loved ones who are hurting, but do we get a little mixed up and somehow think prayer means we need to FIGURE OUT ALL THE THINGS AND TELL GOD?
Sometimes I realize that I think prayer is playing tug ‘o war with God. It’s like prayer is the work of trying to pull Him over to my side. Why in the world would I do that if I truly believe He is God and I am not???!!! Wouldn’t I want to be on His side?
Ruth Haley Barton wrote a brilliant series of eReflections on intercession that have been super helpful to me. She writes:
“I realize now that intercessory prayer is not primarily about thinking I know what someone else needs and trying to wrestle it from God. Rather, it is being present to God on another’s behalf, listening for the prayer of the Holy Spirit that is already being prayed for that person before the throne of grace. It is being willing to join God in that prayer.”
“I have also become more thoughtful about how I use prayer lists. Now, as I sit quietly in God’s presence daily, I seek to be open to whomever God brings to my mind and heart. As individuals or situations come into my awareness, I consciously invite them into that place where God’s Spirit and my spirit are communing, and we sit together with that person. I don’t feel burdened by the need to figure anything out or to say words that indicate I somehow have a handle on the situation, or even know what is needed. It is enough to hold them in the love, the rest and the care of God and to trust God’s love for them.”
So I try to create time and space to be in God’s presence on behalf of others, but I rest in the assurance that it’s not a tug ‘o war, and it’s not my burden to figure it out, or tell God how to fix it. I can honestly lay my desires before Him and ask Him to bring them in line with His will, knowing He is good, He is strong, and He is sufficient.
What’s an image that comes to mind to replace a tug ‘o war picture as you pray?