A friend asked a question on Facebook this week. She mentioned the vote for or against alcohol sales in her small town. It seems a group gathered at a church to pray the bill wouldn’t pass. And it did. Her question: “How can they go on believing God answers prayer?”
As I was typing an answer, I found myself thinking about Leila. When I call, she answers. When she calls, I answer.
She says hello. I say hello. We talk over our days. We vent frustrations and laugh about the craziness that happens. We brag on our kids and complain about their negative behaviors. We give advice. We encourage one another.
Answering is the beginning of a conversation.
It is not the granting of a wish.
Sure, if I ask a favor she‘ll try to do it. I mean, if I ask her to murder someone who was mean to me, she’s going to say no. And we’re going to talk about my anger issues. But favor asking isn’t the point of our conversations. We like each other. We like to talk to one another. There are lots of ways we help each other – usually without needing to ask.
But I don’t talk to Leila in order to get something I want.
Can I say the same thing about my prayer life?
When people say God hasn’t answered their prayer, what they mean is things didn’t work out how they wanted. Sometimes, that means your town will sell alcohol despite your wishes. Sometimes, that means someone you love dies or you get sick or your kid fails a test or any number of other things. But those things aren’t unanswered prayers. They are life.
Leila and me? When life happens, and oh boy does life happen, we talk about it. We try to point out silver linings. We help one another see the situation from different angles. We serve one another in the tight spots, whether that is sickness or juggling toddlers. We sit in the sadness and pain and know it’s okay to feel sadness and pain. We celebrate the victories. We do life together.
Jesus wants to do life with us. He wants to talk with us and hear our thoughts. If we listen, He will find a way to point out silver linings. He will nudge us toward new perspectives. He will serve and show us ways to serve. He will sit with us in our sadness and our pain.
But He is not Santa Claus.
I’m going to try to practice what I’m preaching here. I want to spend more time in friendship with Jesus and less time expecting Him to be my cosmic bodyguard and health insurance.
It’s scary to think this way. It’s easier to believe God will just fix those problems right up, and we can move on with our lives. Like a dishwasher. I put in that icky grease covered emotion that comes with my aunt’s cancer, and when the cycle finishes, she’ll be all better.
Maybe you want it to work that way. I won’t lie and say I don’t. I’d love to hit a God button and fix everyone’s problems.
But at the end of the day, do you feel especially close to the dishwasher that did your chore for you… or to the friend that held your hand and listened while you shared your hopes and fears?
As much as I love clean dishes, I’d rather have a friend.
*originally published on Middle Places