Thursday, March 31, 2011
In six weeks I will be speaking at a retreat on the topic of prayer.
I don't mind telling you that I feel a little-bit overwhelmed by this topic, and A LOT-a-bit under-qualified.
Its not that I don't pray. I do.
Its just... well... prayer is such a huge topic and it often involves pain. Of course, pain is a problem I like to avoid.
And yet, I know that prayer is one of the ways I can communicate with my Creator. Its foundational in a dynamic relationship with God. I know that not all of my prayers will be answered the way I would like them to unfold - often providing hope and help from places I didn't even know existed. I know that my prayers have been unequivocally answered "Yes!", and some, "No!". But with 20/20 vision I can look back and see that God used all things for His glory and my good.
I know these things.
My problem is in the practical application. In convincing my heart of a Holy practice that my mind can't fully comprehend.
I find that I waiver between two courses when I pray: I pray that God would spare me (or others) from pain, or, in my pain I ask Him to take it away...and please, make the process as painless as possible.
I've been through just enough discomfort in this life to know it isn't all bad, and that pain is also purposeful - if we choose not to waste it. Still, as most people do, I often dance around it. It reminds me about a situation I was in about 8 years ago....
My daughter was about three-years old and woke up one bright Texas morning with a flat, light-brown spot on the left side of her face. I thought she was getting a freckle but a couple weeks later that little spot got bigger... and had babies.
Within a month that little spot was about the size of a grain of rice, and the other spots ranged from the size of a pin-point to large freckles.
I was concerned.
So I took her to the doctor who said it wasn't contagious, but she didn't know what it was.
I took her to a dermatologist who said he had never seen anything like it and perhaps it was a wart (although they didn't look like warts). He said removing it would cause scarring so to try some over-the-counter wart remover. He then sort of flippantly told us that there was an old wives-tale regarding warts: if you cut a potato and rub it on the wart, then bury the potato in you back yard, your warts would go away.
I tried it.
It didn't work.
I took her to a dear friend who is a medical professional but also knowledgeable in natural medicine. She told me to try Tea-tree oil. So I plunked down some hard cash and put nasty smelling oil on my baby's cheek for a couple of months.
Nothing. And it was getting worse.
As a last ditch effort, I took her to a family friend and well-known plastic surgeon in my hometown. He also wasn't sure what it was (he didn't think it was warts) and told me to wait it out. He asked me if it was causing her pain or if it bothered her in any way.
The answer was no.
He said that he could take it off, but that the in-office procedure would be tough on a three-year old. Not to mention the difficulties of keeping the post-surgery wound on a pre-schooler's face clean. He said to leave it alone and if, when she was 12 or 13, she didn't like the way it looked, he would take care of it.
All these appointments and ointments (and sadly, potatoes) took place over the course of a year. I'm not sure when it occurred to me that I should pray about these marks on her face, it was certainly after I had tried everything I knew to do...but then I prayed.
And then I asked my mom's group to pray.
And then I asked my small group at church to pray.
And then I asked the women's ministry team to pray.
And I prayed some more.
And then, The Girl got very sick.
She had a ridiculously high fever. She complained of nothing else. There were no ear infections, throat issues...nothing. For two days she was poorly. It wasn't easy for her.
Life went on and she got better. About a week later, as we all sat around the table and I looked at her with unbelief. I don't know when it happened but, her spots were gone.
I'm talkin', completely, totally, absolutely, not there. There wasn't a scar or spot or any sort of sign. Just a pink, healthy looking face.
I spent over a year trying to get rid of a blemish that the Lord removed nearly overnight.
As The Mister and I talked about it we think The Girl did in fact have some sort of virus. A virus that only a fever could cure.
We prayed for restoration, the remedy was fire.
There is mercy in fire.
There is purpose in pain.
If we can hang on, until we can see the goodness that comes from the heat of life, we receive the privilege to see the hand of God in our lives and in the lives of those we love.
As Christians we practice prayer because its communion with our God and Father. It helps us to remember that He is in control. Prayer is a gift - sometimes a gift that is pleasurable, and yes, sometimes painful...but all for our good.