I’m afraid to pray.
Not the talking-to-God-throughout-the-day kind of prayers. I’ve reached a point in my life where talking to Him is almost automatic – so much so that NOT talking to Him would require serious effort.
I’m talking about the petitioning prayers. The God-heal-my-friend prayers. The God-fix-this-relationship prayers. The God-show-us-what-to-do prayers.
For weeks, we prayed for my brother’s healing. For weeks, hundreds of people all around the world prayed for my brother’s healing. And there were miracles along the way, days when he defied the doctors’ predictions. Like when he started breathing on his own after a week on the respirator, or when he was readmitted to ICU for internal bleeding and the bleeding miraculously stopped, or when his kidneys began to work again after weeks on dialysis. And we praised God for the miracles and for answering the prayers of many.
The last week of Derek’s life, doctors planned to discharge him. Every day for three days, we waited. And every day for three days, they said, one more day. Until the last day, when they moved him, for the third and final time, back to ICU. He never came home.
Even though I know God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want…and even though I know people suffer and die every day…that we all die some day…that eventually God stops answering our prayers for healing and calls us all home…and even though I know God is unchanging and good and that His ways are higher than our ways…and even though I know that prayer is a mystery…that somehow God invites us to participate with Him in His divine plan but the outcome does not rely on us…even though I know all that, I’m still afraid to pray.
The pain and devastation, the feeling that God abandoned us – actually tricked us with answered prayer and then pulled the rug out from under our feet – snaps at the heels of my heart and mind like an angry dog. And I can’t run away.
Even with my faith in the God who moves mountains, restores sight to the blind, sets the captives free and raises people from the dead, I am still afraid to pray.
I find myself asking, What if I pray wrong? What if my prayers hurt my friend instead of help her? What if I hear God wrong? He knows it’s hard for us to hear Him clearly here beneath the veil. What if He tricks me again?
Because even though I know He can move mountains and heal the blind and free the prisoner and raise the dead, I don’t know if He will. And I don’t want to be disappointed in Him again. I don’t want to feel betrayed again.
During Derek’s illness, in the moments when my faith was weakest, when I was convinced we would lose him, that’s when God miraculously restored his breathing or stopped the bleeding. But then, when I started to believe that God really was working miracles, when I began to hope that He really was healing my brother, that’s when God took him from us.
In light of that, I can’t help but wonder, did our prayers matter? And what’s the point of praying in faith?
I know, I know, I know, prayer isn’t about getting what we want, it’s about getting closer to the heart of God, aligning ourselves with what He wants, knowing Him intimately and letting Him know us.
So then what’s the point in petitioning prayer? Some people get answers and some don’t. Why?
In my works-based reward system humanity, I conclude that some people must pray better than others, harder than others, longer than others or simply be more virtuous than others. And that perhaps those are the prayers God answers, the prayers of the virtuous.
Or is it a lottery system? We all pray and God doles out answers at random? And if you win that lottery – bam! – you get a healing, you get a bonus in your paycheck, you get a restored relationship.
I’ve never been very motivated by lottery systems. And I know I’ll never be good enough to
perfect my prayers. I’ll never come to God without sin-stained hands.
So I’m left to wonder when and how and why should I pray?
I’ll still meet with God. I will talk to Him every day, all throughout the day. And I will praise Him and let myself be lost in His grip, in His wide and deep embrace. And I will drink Him in and beg for more because without Him I am nothing.
But I don’t know how to pray anymore. And I am afraid.
© Nichole Q. Perreault