Archive for the ‘prayer’ Tag

Burden   Leave a comment

It just seems to be one of those days. Yesterday morning, I was fine. I woke up normally and in good spirits. I don’t know what happened, but today I am trailing along in the wake of the same old depression that has been routinely dogging me for the past two years. Not every day or month, thankfully, but it just keeps coming back.

I hope this will be a one day version and that tomorrow will be better, since I was on the upswing. We’re doing work on the house that is supposed to get rid of mold and thus help my mental health, and that remediation is finally over and we will get the final clearance from the assessor that the house is mold free, soon, we hope.

But for now, it’s the same old fight, fighting the inner voices that tell me I can’t do this or that, or that it’s too much trouble, or I don’t have what it takes to overcome this, or that it will never change.

And going into this winter, with the virus having totally swamped the boat of normal life, knowing that it’s getting worse and not better, it’s hard to bear even the thought of going into a lock down again. It was bad enough last spring. If I can’t get out and see friends all winter, it will not be a good thing.

Most days recently, what I have been doing when a worry comes forward in my mind, is to just start praying about that exact thing. It does drive it away. It does give it to God. I want to be doing that today. But the burden isn’t moving so easily today.

Posted November 14, 2020 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

The Problem with Answered Prayer   Leave a comment

The problem with answered prayer is that it raises more questions.

That is one reason why it is difficult to keep asking for things, while at the same time I’m glad to receive the kindness of God’s hand.  But I don’t know how to answer the questions.

I hesitate to even bring the pain up.

I don’t feel that I have the right to broach this subject, as it jabs relentlessly at the agony of unanswered prayers and the losses that have no explanation.  I don’t have the right.  I’m too small, I don’t know the answers, and I haven’t suffered the cruel losses that others have suffered.

But these are my questions.

Why does God answer small prayers that don’t appear to have any great significance in the universal scheme of things?  But he does.

Why would God bother to answer prayers like this when there are many larger issues that need prayer and that presumably we want his attention drawn to?

What happens to my worldview when important prayers don’t get answered?  obviously I know every prayer for finding a lost item or passing a class is not going to get answered, but what about the big prayers that really need to get answered?

Is a non-essential prayer getting answered rubbing dirt in the faces of those whose prayers haven’t yet been answered?

What do I do with a situation that is horrible, evil, tragic, the ones in which we wonder why God allowed it in the first place?

I have to come to terms with these questions if I am going to confidently claim that God answers prayer.

But how can I do that?  I’m finite.

And I think that is why in some ways it is easier to just not ask, to assume that we are not supposed to be asking.

If I stay quiet and only pray some general “bless you and keep you”, if I just back off and don’t actually ask God for anything, then I don’t have to wrestle with these intolerable questions, the ones that are very difficult to just sit there and contemplate.

If I go ahead and ask, and it doesn’t happen, and if other people’s things don’t happen–I know that everything one person wants isn’t going to happen.  All I have to do is look around to see that is true, in my life and other people’s lives, and in the world at large.  When obstacles exist that stop our wishes, that’s because we all have choices.  We have the choices to love God or not; he doesn’t force us, because then it wouldn’t be love.

And yet, God invites us to partner with him in prayer; somehow we’re a part of what He’s doing.  He wants us to be interceding, intervening for others for all matters that are important to us.


Posted June 13, 2020 by swanatbagend in prayer

Tagged with ,

The Church Universal   Leave a comment

When I took a tour of diverse churches recently, I was blessed in ways I did not expect.

I didn’t set out to complete this outing, but when my home church renovated the sanctuary and the chemical odors coming off the new carpet and chairs were enough to flatten me, I decided on the spot that now would be a good time to worship with friends.  I’d promised I’d attend with them someday, and now was the time.

So, over the course of four Sundays, which I figured would be enough to let the fumes dissipate, I went with friends or family to an Eastern Orthodox service, a Catholic mass, a Lutheran service and a United Methodist one.  I thought it would be fun, for lack of a better word, to enjoy the liturgy, the music and the beauty of the churches, as well as giving my body a break.

But I also got these outcomes.

I learned to trust that the smallest of prayers is heard.

And I learned that we are not alone.

Yes, it was really neat to worship in other buildings, to let the beauty of the art in the Orthodox Church and the smell of the incense speak peace to my heart.  It was wonderful to see the carving in the Catholic cathedral and to study the stained glass in the Methodist church.  And the candles everywhere, reminding me of the light of the world!  The liturgy in all four, but especially the Lutheran church, made me feel that I had approached God and met with him, and that I had fully participated in that meeting.

And that was good.

But what struck me were the prayers for specific needs, specific people, specific outcomes, especially at the Orthodox church.  They prayed at length for leaders of the church and the world.  And I thought, these aren’t in vain.  People are praying for these people all over the world, every single Sunday, and probably more often.  God hears every single one and he upholds life all over the universe.  The faithful prayers of his people are an essential part of his goodness and his plan.

And the prayers and the refrains after prayer were much more similar in these churches than they were dissimilar.  Everywhere it was, “Lord, hear our prayer.”  To think.  All around the planet as we, spinning, make our daily journey, people are praying as the light touches them.  We are united in faith, in hope, in baptism.  One church; we’re not alone.

Posted October 6, 2018 by swanatbagend in reflections, the church

Tagged with , , ,

On the Other Side of the Equation   1 comment

Have you read about George Müller?  He’s the one who ran an orphanage but never solicited funds or food or clothes from the public.  He just kept running it and praying for provision.  His prayers were answered to the point that when there was no food in the building and they prayed for their need, the baker’s wagon broke down in front of the orphanage and he came to do the door and offered all the bread in the wagon for the children as he had to get rid of it in order to get the wagon towed and fixed.

I’ve often wondered what it was like to be the person on the other end of the prayers Muller was praying.

I think I just found out.

Some people we know went to another country a few years ago as missionaries.  We don’t contribute, but we do get their prayer newsletter.

They have small children so haven’t had to deal with education in the past, but now their oldest is ready for some school, so they had ordered homeschooling curriculum.  Unfortunately it got stuck in customs somehow due to not being labeled correctly, and they would have to fill out a lot of paperwork to straighten out the mess, plus pay many fees.

They were already over a month behind their planned start time for school and to make matters worse, the order also contained a friend’s materials as well.

They didn’t ask for help, just prayer, but I was almost attacked by a desire to help.  I’m a homeschooler and I can’t imagine having to wait that long for materials.  So I offered to pay for the fees to get the boxes of books out of customs.

She didn’t know what the total amount of fees would be yet, but I did not want to wait until they did know, because I didn’t want them to have to wait for a reimbursement, so I told her I’d just go ahead and make the donation.

I asked God to give me an amount that would cover it all.  And a certain figure appeared in my head, I sent it off, and yesterday I found out it covered it all with a bit to spare.

I could say that I just felt sorry for them because as a homeschooler and a parent, I could imagine the situation they were in.  And I did, because they’d had a really rotten week when they shared this particular situation.

But this time I think it went further.

It’s pretty wild being on the responding end of a prayer.

Posted June 15, 2016 by swanatbagend in prayer

Tagged with , ,

I Asked the Lord   Leave a comment

Seems like the answers to what you need come in a way you don’t expect.

The past 10 months have been a season of physical weakness, which for me invariably leads to emotional and mental challenges.  Honestly, I don’t know if I should call them challenges.  It hasn’t been horrible; it’s just been an ongoing small simmering fog of not feeling as up to my regular routine as usual.

Anyway, the text of one of the songs from a Christmas gift CD has addressed a question of the heart.  It’s by John Newton, the same who wrote Amazing Grace.

I asked the Lord that I might grow in faith and love and every grace

Might more of his salvation know And seek more earnestly his face

And you know, I have asked that.  Sometimes, when I’m really feeling great, I really mean it, I really do want it, and I have asked that.  I don’t want to be halfway; I want to be serious about my faith.  But here’s what happens.  I assume that the answer to this prayer and the others I’ve prayed for healing or freedom from sin will be immediate, instantaneous and complete.  It’s like when I’m at a good spot in life, I can’t imagine things being bad again.  My mind just doesn’t even go there.  My current emotional status is reality; nothing will change.

Of course, that’s not true.

My mood always changes; the only thing that’s constant there is change itself.  So as when I’m in a solid spot and think that this is what life really is, and how it is going to stay, I assume my straightforward prayer for deliverance will be answered straightforwardly, and in the way I think it should be.

I hoped that in some favored hour At once He’d answer my request

And by His love’s constraining power Subdue my sins and give me rest

I don’t know about you but I definitely have felt at times that the more I try to get myself and my life in order, the harder it is to do.  It seems that he “crosses the fair designs we scheme.”

These inward trials I employ From self and pride to set thee free

And break thy schemes of earthly joy That thou mayest seek thy all in me.

It’s not that we aren’t given gifts of earthly joy; it’s not that they are all removed.  Nope, there are many.  But when I hit the chronic struggles, I see that it is in this way the prayer gets answered.  This way, I’m always seeking him.

And that is the goal.

Is it cruel for him to foil our plans, and to not just fix our problems outright?

No.  It isn’t.

Life is full of challenges and suffering for every person.  In this world it cannot be avoided.  How much better to know that it orchestrates and guides our path closer to the one who knows us and loves us in a way which can never change.

And how alone I’d be, ultimately, if I didn’t ever struggle.  I’d think I could handle life by myself.  Wouldn’t you?


Posted February 15, 2016 by swanatbagend in prayer

Tagged with , ,

Asking the Impossible?   1 comment

I’ve been trying to be more specific when praying.  In general I tend to be too general, and that makes it harder to see if anything got answered.

I also know that I tend to be too focused on my needs and those of the people I’m around.  I know I need to be looking for the Big Picture and be praying for the issues that affect the nation and the world.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t pray hard enough for the huge stuff, but I’m working on that.

I do know that asking for specific things, while doing my best to wait with open hands for whatever comes, has been a refreshing new direction.  Assuming that God is involved and active and living that way is a good change.  I have seen some wonky and weird little things come to pass during this process that I did not expect.

Seeing specific prayers get answered also leads to bigger questions, and I will be working through those in a future post.

For now, the story.

My son attends university and is pursuing an entomology degree.  He’s amazing with bugs and many other little critters like them.  He wants to do research and look for new bugs.  We’d like to see him do this also.

But first, since he is in the sciences, he is required to take a hearty dose of math and science courses, including calculus, statistics and multiple sections of chemistry that come with extensive labs and are worth large amounts of credit hours.  I was an English major and never took a course worth more than three credit hours.  But these chemistry courses are both incredibly difficult and a huge chunk of any semester a student takes.

So hard as they are, what would be even more difficult would be having to retake them.  Five more credit hours.  Difficult and beyond tedious.

Last fall our son was in his second semester of chemistry and midway through made an alarming grade on a midterm.  He conferred with the professor, and found that yes, in order to pass the class, his remaining exams would have to be good, not just average.  This was an understandably daunting goal to achieve in the midst of other course work and outside responsibilities, and with difficulty finding a tutor who was regularly available.

However, as per my policy of praying specifically for things, because of “him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” I regularly prayed that our son would pass the class.  I prayed that if it were truly not best for him to pass, and if he really did not comprehend enough of the material to move on, that he would be able to retake the course without too much hassle and really benefit from the time spent.  But–all things being equal I spent more of the time on this topic praying that he would pass.

I felt fairly confident that he did understand the majority of the material, and I decided to pray that the format of the remaining tests, particularly the final on which he obviously needed to do well since it’s a large part of the course grade, would be different in a way that was better for him.

It’s really kind of a stupid prayer, because we knew that the odds were not good that he would pass, and he told me there was no point to keep praying.  And why on earth would the professor change the test format?

When I arrived to collect him for Christmas break, however, one of the first things out of his mouth was, “There’s a chance I may pass chemistry.”

A few days later, I heard him make a funny noise in the other room that was not him about to be sick (my initial reaction), but a huge sigh of relief when he did more than pass the class he had been so concerned about.

Further details were that the chemistry department had jointly decided this year, for the first time, to replace tests compiled by each individual instructor with an industry standard test for all students in all sections of the course.  This would presumably make final grades among the different sections of the course more fair for all students.  The test was put together by the American Chemical Society (I think) and if they don’t know what they’re doing as far as a chemistry exam, who does?

Regardless, my son did much better on the final than he had expected to, and this is a part of the reason why he passed the class, when it had looked impossible.

Why does God answer prayers like this?

I don’t know why, but He did.


Posted January 16, 2016 by swanatbagend in prayer

Tagged with ,

Heart or Help?   2 comments

I used to pray “Dear God, please help me to be patient with my children today even though I’m really tired and feeling depressed” or

“Dear God, help me to get to the end of this to-do list I’ve got to get through”

or “Dear God, help me not to be afraid of this event coming up” or

“Dear God, please help me to reach out to the people around me who need your help.”

I don’t pray that way any more–or, at least, when I find myself doing it again, I stop and do a quick eval to determine if that is really the most effective way of praying about a problem.  Sometimes it is, because don’t get me wrong, obviously what I need, and a lot of the time, is help with a capital H.

However, the problem with asking God to help me was the burden was still on my shoulders even when I was done praying.

If God was helping me, I still had to do the work, it still felt impossible sometimes, I was still in charge of the plan, I was still stewing about the subject.

I finally realized I needed to go far, far beyond asking God to help me.

I don’t need help.  I don’t even need Help, really.  I need Transformation.  (Or would that be TRANSFORMATION!!?–as Manny the mantis chants in one of my favorite movies, A Bug’s Life.)

So now I ask, “God, please drive this fear out” or “God, give me your strength.”

Or most powerful of all, “God, give me your heart for my children.”  Or for the person I’m thinking of, or the people who are frustrating me.

I have found in the short time since I started praying this way that much to my surprise, prayers like this get answered.  I guess it takes the burden off of me and puts it on the one with the power to really get it done?  I guess, maybe, I can’t pull lovey feelings out of a hat?  I don’t know.  I don’t have it, but that is OK, because God is the one with the heart vastly bigger than the universe and all unknown universes.  And when I ask to be made like him, he answers.

Posted October 1, 2015 by swanatbagend in prayer

Tagged with ,