The other night I found myself praying a prayer like this. It was after 11 and I had been trying to soothe Jack to sleep for almost two hours. Two days before, we had spent the night in the Emergency Department getting IV fluids to combat dehydration. My little man had a stomach virus and he was miserable. I was also miserable. Sleep deprived, empathizing with my sweet boy, stressed because of the holidays…at the end of my rope.
“Dear God, make this stop. Please make Jack go to sleep. Please make my head stop pounding. Please make tonight an easy night. Please change everything about this moment! And please do it right now. Amen.”
I don’t believe that I am alone in finding myself praying these kind of prayers.
“Dear God, please make my husband less selfish.”
“Dear God, please give me an easy day on Monday.”
“Dear God, please change my friend’s bad attitude.”
Dear God, please make him like me back.”
“Dear God, please make Aunt Betty be nice on this visit.”
“Dear God, make them get along.”
“Dear God, cause my boss to think I am awesome.”
The trouble with these kind of prayers is this: I want God to overpower other people and cause them to change in a way that will benefit me. The change I want in them might even be right and good change, but the truth is that I want to shortcut the process in their lives and just, poof, have things be wonderful and perfect and easy.
We should all thank God for NOT answering our prayer sometimes.
The truth is that God does not strong arm anyone into growth. The truth is that God does not bulldoze or sneak into people’s hearts and re-arrange the furniture, so to speak. He does not work heart change in this way. The truth is that God will often decide to not alter your circumstances, to not make your path easy, because He knows that the hardships along the way are working beautiful and priceless virtues and blessings into your life.
When we pound on Heaven and demand change in circumstances or in others, we are setting ourselves up to be mad at God when the easy path we desire doesn’t immediately open up in front of us. We demand God to do what we want, what we in our finite view of life see as the right thing, and when He doesn’t do it our way, we get mad. Because we somehow really believe we know better than God.
The other night in the rocking chair, holding my fussy son, I began to pray differently.
“God, help me to love this little boy in the best possible way. Help me to have deep patience and abundant kindness to shower him with. Fill me with Your strength, both physically and mentally so that I am able to care for him well. Carry me and I carry him. I ask for your healing touch on Jack. Help us both to peacefully trust in You as You care for us. Amen.”
After my first prayer, I was agitated and miserable. After my second prayer, my heart was soothed. My mind, clear. I was still tired, but I knew I could go on, because God would give me all I needed to be a good mom to a sick son. I was praying energized prayers because my prayers lined up with God’s will for me. No longer was I trying to boss God around and “sic” Him on the things that were bothering me. I was opening myself up to His guidance, His strength, and His presence to not only get through a long few days, but to thrive in them.
End Note: I do believe in intercessory prayer–prayer that changes hearts and alters circumstances. I do believe in divine healing. I do believe in standing in the gap, pleading for God’s mercy on the undeserving. I believe that these kind of prayers do not come from selfish “change these things so my life will be easier” heart. These kinds of prayers are prayed from a broken heart that so loves the people involved that it must cry out to the God of Universe and invite Him to do the kind of things that only He can do.
At the end of the day, what I am learning is that selfishness can show up in all kinds of places, even prayer. I want to pray faith-filled, open hearted prayers that will line me up with God’s purposes, power, and life. Selfish prayers just don’t do that. Maybe I am the only one who has ever prayed from a selfish place…but if not, maybe these words will open you up to a different kind of prayer. Prayers that start with “God, change me.”