Wednesday, November 13, 2013

When is prayer enough?

My husband came home this morning from a meeting and told our boys to come give him hugs. He started cuddling and hugging them, so I thought he had a horrible meeting or something. (I should just mention that he cuddles them often, it was just a lot all at once.) I asked him how everything was and he told me about a story he heard on NPR.  A reporter was in a hospital in Syria after a school was bombed. My husband said you could hear the children screaming in the background. Then a mom came up hysterical. She said she couldn't even recognize her son's face. The reporter talked to her and in the background, you heard gun shots getting closer and closer. They stopped at one point to listen to see if they needed to leave, but then went on. As they were talking someone came up to the reporter and told her she needed to leave. They said it was all our fault - "our" as in Westerners. I know nothing about politics or the details of what's going on in Syria. But I do know that policy helps to take sons from their mamas. The dollar and the bottom line help to bomb schools. I'm listening to my husband tell this story and I have no place for it in my mind. I can do nothing except cry. And then I think of something one of my friends posted on a Facebook feed. This was her reply when asked what we are to do when we cannot respond to all the poverty and brokenness we see because our time and resources are limited:
We can ALWAYS stop and pray. Always. We have to see that as ENOUGH. As something that matters. We have to take it seriously. You're so right. You know we surely can't afford to help hardly anyone some months. But I can always, always, always, always, always pray. And lifting them to the Father matters. It counts. We have to know that it counts.

So, I cannot go to Syria or the Philippians or Haiti and I sometimes have no time for weeks to even go visit the man down the street who is sick and alone because I have these three boys of mine to teach and feed and clean up after and help provide for. I hate the hurt and usually have no words for it. But I can pray. I can get on my knees and beg to my Father to help that mama whose son is laying in a morgue. I can pray that she is comforted and that through this horrendous act of war, God will be glorified. I can pray for unity between these people and these countries and this world. And I can weep for the thousands who are without a home or a farm or a way to provide for their family or even a family. I can beg my Father for His redeeming grace to sweep those islands and those souls. I can lift up the missionaries there and pray that they are equipped supernaturally to undertake the heartache they are facing. I can pray for my friends in Haiti walking their 4 miles for water and eating their maybe one meal a day. I can weep through prayers of thanksgiving that our sponsor boy gets a chance at secondary school and pray through the fear that grips me that our sponsor girl might have a hard road - too hard - and God, just let her stay innocent to the hurt and loss that is all around her! And I can pray for my neighbor who is frail and fading. Every single time I drive by his house rushing to the store or to our homeschool group, I can pray for God's angels to surround that house and love on him when I can't. And I can pray for my friends who I talk to daily who face their own demons of sick children and marital division and parental inadequacies and anxiety and broken bodies. I can pray, but I pray that I don't stop there.

See, I never want to be desensitized to the brokenness. I worry that I will be - soon. Sometimes, the tears don't flow as long and sometimes I can stop for ten minutes to visit with my neighbor but don't and sometimes I forget to pray. It happens in those moments when I believe that I deserve some alone time or that it is important for my house to be spotless just once this month or that if I have to listen to noise for one more second I will lose my mind and I start drifting away from Christ who is weeping for the brokenness of this world. Because it is in those moments that the lies of this world are penetrating me. The lie that say that I deserve (fill in the blank) or that (fill in the blank) is more important or that I can do all things through myself who strengthens me or the very sneaky lies that says that I am good if I just love whoever is in front of me or that I need to take care of myself before I help others that desensitize me from the hurt and pain that is everywhere I turn. And, if I'm honest, I sometimes don't want to see it. Sometimes I want to take my privileged kids on our errands and not share our snack with the homeless person holding a sign. Sometimes I want to walk around the downtown shops and spoil my kids with an ice cream cone without feeling a pang of guilt when we pass someone rummaging through the garbage can. But the truth is, my eyes are open and I no longer have the luxury of being blind to the pain. I know that when I buy a cute, cheap outfit from Target, it was most likely made by someone who is making far too little of the profit and working way too many hours and seeing way too little of their children and being exploited. And I know that when I have chocolate cravings and just grab something from the check out line, those cocoa beans were probably picked by a slave who is beat and underfed and overworked. I know there are layers of reasons why that guy is holding the sign on South Florida and that it is only by grace that it is not me.

So, what do I do with that? No, I cannot go save the world. Yes, I need to love the people in front of me. But that is not enough. Not for me. I have my children and my friends and some babies and some big kids in front of me and my world is small. Of course I want to love them all well. But this world is big and is full of hurt. On that same Facebook feed I mentioned earlier another friend wrote:
The question to me is does your life here with your family have true purpose? Do you spend time with your kids teaching them about serving and sacrificing? Do you model for the women around you a heart that makes little of you and a lot about God? What portion of what you do have is given away? How do I die to myself everyday?
While prayer is certainly enough and sufficient for dealing with the hurts, it is not to be used as a pass. (Please know that I am mostly speaking to myself but am assuming that I'm not alone in my struggles to honor God). See, there is a big difference between being in a place when all you can do is pray and choosing to only pray when God is calling you to do more. Now, I'm not saying that prayer should be a last resort. It should be the first thing we do (my lie that I can do all things through myself who strengthens me is exactly what I'm addressing here). The only reason we can accomplish anything is because God is gracious enough to use us. It is only through His blessings of ability or health or money or time or timing that we are able to be a part of what He is doing. This is not a legalistic call to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and turn into a super human who raises your kids well while traveling to Asia and Africa and Haiti and freeing some slaves along the way and being home in time to have dinner on the table for your husband. This is not even a call to go volunteer once a week somewhere. See, in this season I am in, I know that sometimes God wants you to sit tight and be a prayer warrior. I know that because there have been moments when that is literally all I could do. But, He also always calls us to die to ourselves. When I pass by my neighbor's home and ignore that pull at my heart to stop for just 10 min because I know that my husband will be home with the kids in 30 min and I really want that cup of coffee while I sit quietly and read, then I am not dying to myself. And since I've been wrestling with this for a while I will share that my argument at this point is that I cannot give if I have nothing to give, so I need that time. And now, I am going to win this argument with myself and say that the only boundary that I ever saw Christ set in scripture was making sure He spent time with His Father. Sure, I can lie and say that's why I'm rushing past his house, but I know it has nothing to do with being filled by Christ and everything to do with being filled by caffeine delivered in a big warm mug while sitting in my chair looking out my window at my big tree and the fall leaves. It has to do with my comforts and my selfishness. So, while I cannot be a globe trotter and save the world or change foreign policy or end world hunger, I can hold myself accountable to what I know. I can be intentional with my time. I can be intentional with how I love those in front of me - in ways that share what I've learned about God's heart and desire for our lives. I can make it a priority to arm myself with God's word and to shield myself from the lies of this world by abiding in my savior daily. I can pray. And when God decides to use me in the day to day moments with friends and children and babies and big kids or in the amazing life altering moments in Haiti or with at risk youth or maybe with an orphan who we get to parent (please, Lord) then I can listen and obey. I am certainly not saying that sitting with a big cup of coffee in a special chair is wrong. But I am saying that Christians are called to put God first, to not make unto thee any graven image (like a mug in my case), and to be refined by His fire.

And what does this mean for you? I don't know exactly. But I strongly encourage you to ask yourself daily if you have set time aside to be with Christ, to intentionally think about whether you are making decisions out of habit or selfishness or selflessness, and to pray without ceasing. And who knows, maybe God will enlist you to be the one who frees some slaves or changes US foreign policy or parents one of the millions of orphans in this world or plants a seed that will give eternal life to your neighbor or husband or children.


  1. you are so amazing I'm so glad that you can find a way for your heart to share your weaknesses with God because sometimes I feel like I'm so alone in my struggles supposed to feel good I'm selfish it's all about me and I don't want to give to the world anymore.I feel as if when I did I $$$ hurt so deeply...but it's not really about me its about God and he was hurt for freedom so why should we suffer to help others be free as well

    1. Susan, it's such a process that I feel like I have to relearn. We are sinful by nature and we have to daily choose to die to ourselves. It is so easy to get caught up with the day to day that we start to forget what Christ has called us to. But it is because He loves us that He wants to refine us and make us more like Him. And He aches for the broken. We can only die to ourselves if we are made alive through Him. Otherwise, we just become lifeless shells. So it always has to start with prayer and being filled by His spirit. That is key for me - allowing God's spirit to fill me - not all the other things I think I need. I know you are always in danger of burn out because you give so much. Just keep letting Christ recharge you!