So at church yesterday, a young couple asked for prayer. For a few years, they’ve been trying to adopt a Chinese baby –a process riddled with as much red tape as the Great Wall is long. As they told their tear jerking story, the couple shared how another family is considering adopting the same child.
“Everyone, will you please pray for this family!” the pastor requested.
A lot of folks got up and prayed, others stretched out their hands and prayed from their seats.
Meanwhile, at a small church on the other side of the world, another family was asking for prayer. They too were standing in front of their congregation sharing a story about a Chinese baby they want to adopt, the process riddled with red tape, the child being the same baby girl.
I scratched my head and pondered,
So, who do I pray for, the couple at my church or the other family who wants the child?
Will God answer prayers for couple A or couple B? Will the couple with the most prayers get the baby, like votes on American Idol?
I don’t think so.
Now I’m not a theologian. My Bible training consists of a few summers of Vacation Bible School so take that in mind when you read this post. But I do know God is not Amazon Prime where you can put in a prayer request and get what you want with free delivery.
Prayer is not about getting what you want, but getting the strength to deal with whatever life throws you. Which, usually ain’t the things in your prayer shopping cart.
There are lots of verses in the Bible about prayer, many contradict each other. Some imply God is a celestial vending machine: if you ask for something in prayer and believe you receive it. It could be a job, romance or even a parking spot near Wrigley Field.
But other verses, like the Lord’s Prayer, teach us to pray for God’s will, not our own. You have to have faith God will take care of you when your month lasts longer than your pay check and when you have to find your own parking spot. God will be with you even when the best doctors don’t have the best news. This is the tougher prayer. The why-do-I-even-believe-in-God-if-I-can’t-get-what-I-want-prayer.
Divorce taught me that there’s a difference between praying and wishful Amazon.god thinking. The wish was that my marriage would have a Julia Roberts movie ending where Richard Geer shows up with a dozen roses in a limo. Well, it didn’t. But prayer taught me that God will walk through the rubble.
The tragedies of my life are probably peanuts to yours. Maybe you’re in urban ministry dealing with kids killed every day. Or you’re working in a clinic in Africa where three-year-olds care for their younger siblings. Or you have of a loved one diagnosed with a condition you cannot pronounce. Or maybe you’re praying for a child to adopt.
So what do you pray for after you give thanks for your food? Do you pray God removes your burdens or that He walks with you, helping you carry that load?
I don’t know. Amazon’s Alexa doesn’t, either. I’m hoping some of you do.