The Answer.

August 1, 2012

“I know now, Lord, why You utter no answer. You are Yourself the answer.  Before Your face questions die away.  What other answer would suffice?”

(C.S. Lewis)

Dirty mangers.

June 4, 2012

Abba, sometimes I miss Your answers to prayer, because I’m looking for answers served on silver platters.  I’m looking in the mailbox for a sealed envelope with a clear address label instead of in the junk drawer.  I’m looking away toward the airy skies rather than here at the muddy ground.

But Your answers to prayers for redemption look messy sometimes, don’t they?  They look like loss?  Like a mis-answer?

And yet — and yet — if Your greatest Answer came in a dirty manger, should I be surprised if your other answers come in dirty mangers?

Go again.

December 9, 2011

Spurgeon on unanswered prayer: “Go again.”

This, he says, is faith’s response.  Go again.

And again.

And again.

Land of the rising sun.

April 1, 2011

Japan, that you would truly be land of the rising Sun.

(Photo by M. Yamashita, National Geographic)

On the window sill.

January 20, 2010

Through my childhood, my second-story room window faced the hills to the east.  I’d always be the first to spot the sun rising behind the hills in the morning, and I felt like I was perched up high, especially when I was little.

So it made sense to my 1st grader (or so) mind that since I didn’t know God’s address, the best place to leave Him a letter would be on my window sill.  It’s high up, so He won’t have to travel very far down to get the letter, I thought.  And I waited …

… and He never physically retrieved that letter.

Yet I had no doubt He knew its contents.  (My dad had a hand in helping me understand that.)  So I was content — or as content as a 1st grader could be.

To be sure, I don’t leave Him letters on window sills anymore (haha), but He’s taught me about prayer somewhere in the years in between.  It’s such a fight to pray, and when my heart is cold, I’m still inclined to view prayer as another thing “to do.”  But He knows the contents of this heart.  Psalm 139 says He knows my thoughts from afar — both the ones that fleet through and the ones that are long harbored.  In Christ, we have direct access to His throne of grace, and as we pray, we come face to face (so to speak) with the living God.

In prayer, we can pour out our heart to Him like King David did, in our joys as well as our distresses.  No wonder he was called a man after God’s own heart; among other things, seeking God’s face in prayer and conversing with Him shaped the inner person of his heart to become more like the One he so wholeheartedly sought and conversed with.

“How long, O Lord, will You look on?  Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions!” (Psalm 35:17)

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent.  O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever!” (Psalm 30:11-12)

Sometimes, I still can’t believe my entreaties would move His heart, or that anything I say could be received with delight from the Holy One who sees the heart behind the words.  And I used to wonder (still do) at the humble boldness with which the psalmist called upon God to hear him and come to his aid.

I suppose the growing understanding, though, comes with the growing understanding of what it means to be “in Christ” and be His child.  I suppose it’s the blessed awkwardness of transitioning from being His enemy to being His adopted child and learning to approach Him with the confidence of knowing I am well loved by means of His rich mercies.  The child who is uncertain of her Father’s love is hesitant to approach Him for fear of disturbing or upsetting Him, but the well-loved child is reverently confident that her Father delights to hear from her and desires for her to converse with Him more often — without ceasing, even.

As His children, He hears our prayers as we adore Him, confess our sins, give thanks, and present our supplications to Him.  In fact, He invites such prayers and teaches us to take Him up on His invitations more freely and gladly.

It is useless to say you know not how to pray. Prayer is the simplest act in all religion. It is simply speaking to God. It needs neither learning nor wisdom nor book knowledge to begin it. It needs nothing but heart and will. The weakest infant can cry when he is hungry. The poorest beggar can hold out his hand for alms, and does not wait to find fine words. The most ignorant man will find something to say to God, if he has only a mind.

(J.C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer)

It’s a wonder we don’t pray more often and more heartily.  It’s a wonder we don’t forget to eat or drink for the pure joy of being able to speak directly with the King of Kings who has made us His own.

I miss that hill-facing window with its pink blinds and narrow, white sill.  But I don’t miss the days of thinking a window sill could be part of a mailing system to contact God :], because when I shut my door and kneel before Him in the privacy of my room, I can pray to Immanuel (“God with us”) and get a foretaste of what it will be like to one day really see Him face to face and speak with Him.

If prayer can be so sweet now, what will it be in Heaven?

Straight to Him.

January 21, 2009

I’ve been reading Elizabeth Prentiss’s biography recently, and the more I read, the more it confirms to me that her fictional account of a girl’s journey to godly womanhood, Stepping Heavenward, mirrored so much of her own life.

In Stepping Heavenward, Katy’s mother is a woman who deeply loves God and leans on His breast (so to speak) in every circumstance of life.  In Stepping Heavenward, Katy wonders “what Mother finds to say when she is shut up by the hour praying.”  And when her mother is grieving, Katy writes in her journal,

She has gone now, where she always goes when she feels sad, straight to God.  Of course she did not say so, but I know Mother.

Sharon James, the author of Elizabeth Prentiss’s biography, shared this about the influence Elizabeth’s praying mother had on her:

Most of all she relied on her God, with whom she communed often in prayer.  In the last Bible study Elizabeth gave just before her death, she looked back to these early years [of her life]: “Accustom yourself to turn all your wants, cares, and trials into prayer,” she said.  “If anything troubled or annoyed my mother she went straight to the ‘spare room,’ no matter how cold the weather, and we children knew it was to pray.  I shall never forget its influence over me.”

It made me think about the pattern of my life, the pattern of where I flee to when my heart is heavy or troubled or chafed.  Is it straight to Him?  Straight to His tender counsel?  Straight to His arms?  Straight to His comfort?  Or do I wander, seeking out all other options before making my way towards Him?

Oh, to go straight to Him and to find — again and again and again — that He is enough.

It’s harder to pray for people who are near me (physically). It’s the tendency to think, “Oh, they’re right here. Why pray so much? I can just talk to them & tell them.” (As if my words alone were persuasive or able to change hearts.)

But my words alone cannot effect change. My words alone cannot transform or make new a creation.  I cannot talk people out of apathy, deadness, dryness, or doubt.

I can talk my head off, but that won’t change hearts. That alone won’t draw loved ones nearer to the Savior.

Today, the reminder to pray for loved ones here weighs heavy on my heart. I cannot do God’s work apart from God’s power.

He is God. He is the Lord of the harvest.