Have you ever been in a place in prayer where your own words just don’t seem to work. Maybe you don’t know what to say other than, “Help.” Maybe you have said the same things time and time again and there is something stale about the conversation? Maybe your own words just don’t seem adequate enough in the moment- not strong enough to express that longing and groaning that is happening in your heart and mind. Even as a writer I have experienced these times. These are the times that have drawn my heart into pursuing liturgies and prayers that others have written before me.
Yesterday a new friend offered up a book about prayer that immediately took me online to buy it. I have been hungering after books on prayer lately, and this one hit the mark with it’s rawness. The book is called, “Prayer in the Night” by Tish Harrison Warren. I’m only a couple chapters in, but I had to stop dead in my tracks when I read something she wrote in chapter two. She is telling a story of a friend who is sitting in the waiting room for her son to come out of surgery. This is what she tells her husband:
“We have to decide right now whether or not God is good, because if we wait to determine that by the results of this surgery, we will always keep God on trial.”
I have had a lot of conversations with people recently where I have walked away chastised (either gently by them in love or by the Holy Spirit) that I am accusing God of being someone he is not. I accuse him of withholding, of being distant, of not caring, and of playing games with my emotions. I react to a way I believe he is because I have experienced something here with my earthly relationships that I assume is true in my relationship with him. Maybe I put broken human tendencies on him rather than judge humanity against his Holy character. Maybe I did not get the answer to prayer that I desired, so I immediately named him to be a liar or I accuse him of being a dictator or tyrant. Whatever the reasons, I have found that I almost constantly have God on trial when it comes to my thoughts of him.
What would happen if I did it the other way around? If I chose to believe what his word says about him, and then looked at my life, my prayers, my answers, my circumstances, my interactions with others through that lens instead? What if, before the answer came, as I was sitting in the waiting room with my son under the knife, I chose to say, God IS good. God IS right. His ways ARE perfect. He DOES love me completely. PERIOD. Full stop – no question mark, nothing left hanging, unanswered. How different would my life be? How much more powerful would my prayers be if I prayed based on the foundation of his character and his promises rather than my own flimsy base?
Warren goes on to say this: “If the question of whether God is real or not – or of whether God is kind or indifferent or a bastard – is determined solely by the balance of joy and sorrow in our own lives or in the world, we will never be able to say anything about who God is or what God is like. The evidence is frankly, inconclusive. If the story of my short life and feelings determines God’s character, then he is Jekyll and Hyde…But we cannot divine such a sign from the circumstances of our lives or of the world. We have to decide what we believe about who God is and what he is like. We have to decide if anyone keeps watch with us. it is unavoidably – even irritatingly – a decision based on doctrine, the first principles we return to again and again, the story we define our lives by.”
I am at a crossroads. Will I choose to believe the doctrine of God’s character – who he tells us he is in his word? Or will I choose to believe what my feelings, so easily swayed, and my circumstances, which are marred and exist in a broken world try to tell me? Where will my foundational truth of God’s character come from? Will I stop putting him on trial – not because he really HAS proven himself over and over, but simply because faith in who God is is at the core of everything I believe and do?
This morning I choose to decide he is good.