Anyone who even remotely believes in a higher power and has ever attempted to publish a book can well explain to you the book they could write of all the desperate calls for intervention from Heaven that the publishing process demands.
I personally have never prayed more than in the last year and a half, trying to move my barely-completed second draft into a full-fledged, contracted book!
It's a struggle to pray, to remember God’s presence, to reach out to Jesus in times of trouble instead of resorting straight to panic-induced problem solving. I even know the struggle to pray at all because who wants to hear another resounding, “No!” from the almighty? I strive to pray all the time, a habitual, constant conversation. My greatest struggle, however, lies in praying for entirely the wrong things, all the time.
God, help me to fix this problem. Give me the right words!
And still chew my pen into oblivion while the page remains blank.
God, please let the email come today. I can’t wait any longer!
And still have to wake up yet another morning and face yet another night with no reply.
What is all too easy to forget are the two very important truths about God in regard to answering prayer:
No. 1: He does not give you things that are not good for you no matter how much you beg him for them. If you obtain them on your own, he might even rip them out from under you.
No. 2: There are a few things God always gives us, and they all begin with himself.
A verse often misunderstood is Psalm 37: 4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” the general understanding being that if you trust and follow God and do what is good, then he will give you what you want.
At first, this verse seems like a lie or a misdirection.
No, he doesn’t. He doesn’t give me what I want. Does he give other people what they want? Am I just not doing enough just not good enough?
But there is a deeper, true meaning to these words. If you DELIGHT in the LORD, you are finding your joy in him. The root word here is “‘anag” which means to be happy about something. To delight yourself in the Lord is to find your happiness in him. When you find your happiness in God, then your heart desires God. And then he gives you the desire of your heart—himself.
God will always give you himself. He will give you comfort, shelter, identity, a calling, all the things that come from a relationship with Christ. All the things that our Spirits crave more than any desire of our flesh. They’re ours already and freely given.
And then there is James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
Often, it is not safe to ask people for wisdom. People give bad advice. People give their own brand of common sense from their own experiences or pain that are not in line with God’s perspective. People often ridicule those who ask a question and revel in already having the answer.
God’s not like that. When my 3 year old asks me what a sign says, I don’t laugh at him for not knowing how to put the letters together and understand the word. I’m happy to teach him a little more about his world. When we humble ourselves before God and say what he already fully knows, that we have a lack of understanding and need him to guide us, he will, and without finding fault with us.
We have God, and we have wisdom. God comforts us through every trial and redeems all things for our good. Wisdom guides us through our interactions with others, our decisions for our future, and our perspective while we navigate our lives.
With all this in mind, I’d like to share the three prayers that absolutely, unequivocally, changed my life—and continue to do so when I just remember to pray them.
When I first asked God for wisdom instead of just a generic, “Help!” my older son was a year old and still sleeping like a new born—waking every two hours and sleeping maybe 5 hours a night. I had read every book and every blog about baby sleeping. Nothing worked for my child. And finally, I collapsed next to his crib as he screamed and said, “God, this kid is yours even more than he is mine. You made him. Please, show me the right way to comfort and sooth him so we can all get some freaking sleep!” And God did. He showed me a solution that wasn’t in the books, the only thing that could get that little one to sleep.
Then there was a time when I could hardly function for frustration and pain inflicted on me from someone in my life. I dreaded every ring of the phone and every one of my idle thoughts was one of anger. I wanted them to change or just vanish. And instead, God said, “I love them too.” So, I asked, “God, I need to see them the way you do.” Because God is love and love casts out fear, I was healed in that moment, from a simple perspective shift. My anger and sense of injustice was replaced with compassion for another person’s brokenness. And even though circumstances don’t always shift, perspective always can.
Sometimes, I will admit, I have moments where I regret the next prayer, because the consequences are not always pleasant. The flesh will certainly suffer while the Spirit grows. I asked God about a decade ago when I was a brand-new freshman in college that whatever it took, no matter how much it hurt, I wanted to follow him and be the person he created me to be. 10 years later, it’s taken a lot, and it’s hurt quite a bit, and it’s still hurting now. But it’s not a pain I would trade for a comfortable, Spirit-starved existence. I’ve lived for myself, chasing my own dreams, wanting my own way. The gentle, and sometimes not-so-gentle, breaking that God performs of a heart who truly seeks him is unmatched by any human experience. The cost to the flesh will be great, but the rewards in the Kingdom will be immeasurable. Growing up, I thought all I wanted out of my life was a comfortable, respectable existence. But, like Bilbo of the Shire, I am instead thrust into an adventurous existence, entirely dependent on God—just as I always should have been.
God doesn’t always give us what we want. God sometimes seems distant and uncaring. So, I’m writing this to remember that he is always ready to give what we really need—himself. To comfort the broken, to redeem the unjust, and to shift the perspective. And it’s really nice to pray for what we truly need when the answer is always, “Yes.” It’s really nice to receive a shift in understanding and perspective that can change everything about your process—whether you’re publishing a book or sleep-training an infant—even when the situation hasn’t changed at all. It’s really nice to pray to a God who is bigger than everything and shares what he can see with you.
On this rickety ride of publishing—putting my creation and my thoughts on a silver platter for others to judge and devour—I’m thankful that only God’s perspective truly matters, that wisdom is readily accessible, and that the desires of my heart can always be fulfilled.