I do not claim to have a complete and total grip on the concept of prayer, or even the Christian faith. I have not been to seminary and I have no Master of Divinity. I have nothing beyond a minor in Religious Studies from my undergrad and lifetime of exposure to followers of Jesus. I am on the “eighty year plan” with God, a lifelong adventure of knowing Him and what it is like to be His son. A lifelong student of life in Christ.
I’ve seen and heard prayer for as long as I can remember. At church the prayer list was printed on the back of the bulletin each week. Line by line, there were dozens of cancer patients, seriously and terminally ill, widows and widowers, expectant mothers, and the jobless and struggling. Every church gathering started and ended with prayer. Before every church service, before every meal, before every trip, and before bed every night. Eyes closed, heads bowed.
For most of my life, prayer felt empty. It was very ritualistic, very repetitive, and seemed more or less like an obligation to a very distant God. I never saw the sick miraculously healed. I never saw a person’s leg grow out to match the length of the other. I never saw a dead person revived.
Later in life, I eventually encountered situations where miraculous things happened as a result of prayer. I met a woman who prayed over her child daughter who had been electrocuted and dead for several hours. After her prayers, the daughter was raised to life. She is alive and well to this day, a beautifully thriving college student, still bearing the scar on her forehead from the electrical wire that took her life, temporarily.
Even then, after witnessing such powerful supernatural events, my perception of prayer was very shallow. It was no longer just a ritual, sure, but it still seemed to be a method of twisting God’s arm into getting our way. A way of asking in just the right way to successfully change my circumstances or someone else’s. If only we could just get the right number of people to say the right combination of words, things would be good again.
In 2013, right around this time two years ago, life as I knew it fell apart. I was betrayed, abandoned, and crushed. I wanted nothing more during that time than to have my circumstances changed to how I wanted them. I prayed for it with complete desperation. I would have given anything for it. But my circumstances ultimately did not change how I so deeply desired them to. What I did not have the capacity to see before was that not giving me what I wanted was the best gift God could have ever given to me. What I discovered, instead, was intimacy with God in a deep, bottom-of-the soul-scraping way that I never had before. I packed several semesters of Son of God education into those months. He healed me from the inside out, and out of the healing of my heart came my ministry.
In that season, I began to see that prayer was not a merely a way of achieving the desired circumstance modification of the moment, but much more. Prayer is a way to acknowledge our Father’s intimate presence in our lives, share our thoughts and emotions with Him, invite Him into the situation and ask for His guidance, and participate in whatever it is He may be doing in the current circumstances we find ourselves in. Prayer is the spirit to spirit communication that exists in the reality of our complete union with Him.
I believe God reveals himself to us through miracles still today. Physical, tangible miracles can and do happen. But, for reasons we cannot fully understand, He does not always do the miracle in our circumstances – in our bodies and minds.
But – and this is a big but – He always, without any exception, does the miracle we so deeply need in our spirit. He has made the way for us to have wholeness through Christ. Not only to enter into His eternal life, but to give us a new life. A life of rest, love, acceptance, value, and security. A life that transcends circumstances, good or bad.
Because of this miracle He has done, we are able to have peace.
I can have peace with my grandfather in the hospital, relationships between those I love in crisis, an uncertain adventure ahead of me in ministry, and a world full of problems and hurting people that I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around.
Peace that surpasses circumstances. Peace that surpasses understanding.