“Walking around these walls. I thought by now they’d fall. But you have never failed me yet.” – Elevation Worship
How many times? How many times have you walked around the walls? Marched around the walls? Waited for them to fall? Prayed in anticipation of something, only to be disheartened by what seems like yet another no?
Oh friends, this life is crazy hard, isn’t it? We find ourselves wanting something just beyond our reach. We hear ourselves asking, “Why?” Why the divorce, or illness, or diagnosis? Why no spouse or no children? Why am I always struggling to make ends meet? Why did I end up with this addiction? Why the depression, the anxiety, the anger? Why?
And then, sometimes we make a decision. We stop praying about it. Sometimes we decide slowly, as if it once were important but now slowly, slowly we’ve heard no so many times that it just gets too hard and we can’t handle it anymore. Before we know it, we’ve stopped bringing it up before God because it’s just too hard to talk about. And, obviously, he doesn’t really care anyway. Or sometimes our decision is made hard and fast. We get fed up with our empty “nursery” or empty arms or empty refrigerator and think, “Forget it. God doesn’t care anyway.” And we stop. We become silent. We carry our burden, our want, our need, our desire alone. Alone. Why?
Why not? Why shouldn’t we stop praying for something that we desire? Especially when it’s a good thing? Or, how should we pray? How should be be persistent in prayer?
Can I tell you a really great story? This story is found in Luke 11. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it. Jesus tells his followers: Listen, say you have this friend. You go to him at midnight and ask him for a few loaves of bread. You really need this bread because one of your friends is traveling and stopped by your house and you have nothing to feed him. Your friend says forget it. Don’t bother me. The door’s already locked and my kids and I are already in bed. But, you know what? He’s not going to get up out of bed and give you anything because of your friendship. But, because of your shameless boldness, he’ll get up and give you whatever you need. The Message version says, “But let me tell you, even if he won’t get up because he’s a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he’ll finally get up and get you whatever you need.”
Think about the middle eastern culture. If you don’t know, it’s a culture of hospitality. In Bible times, there were many nomadic tribes as well as travelers going from one land to another. If you welcomed strangers into your home you were obliged to wash their feet and give them food and water. If someone comes to you and you having nothing to offer it makes you feel kind of desperate. You really, really need to offer your traveling friend some food. So, you go to your next door neighbor. But, when he said no, you didn’t mope around and go home. You didn’t hang your head in shame and say forget it. Why? Well, because you had nothing. You had no food.
Sometimes when I pray, when I ask God for something, I kind of have a back up plan. I maybe have some idea of how I might cope if the answer is no. I suppose I might pray for something, but then start to respond in back-up plan mode with how I’ll kind of figure it out in my way or my time. How I’ll make do if God gives me a less than desirable response.
But in Jesus’ story, there is no “making do” because there is nothing. No back up plan, no plan B, no bread. Nothing to give. Nothing.
This, this, my friends, is where I think that we need to find ourselves. Not someplace where we can figure it out if God doesn’t come through. Not some place where we move on because we don’t need the hassle or the heartache or the conversation. Not someplace where there’s a back up plan or where we’ll “settle” for second best. But a place of nothingness. What does that look like? I guess that there isn’t one cut and dry answer. I guess in financial hardship we need to come to a point where we realize that we never really own anything anyway. I suppose in the diagnosis or the illness or the divorce, we come to a point where we realize that we are not in charge. We can’t even pretend to control every situation. God himself knows the beautiful plans that will unfold in his time. Jesus himself said that without him we. can. do. nothing. Nothing.
So. So what? Does he hear your plea? Does he hear your desperation? Does he “get” your desires? I think so. Are you ready, though? Are you emptied out? Are you ready to receive what he desires to give you? Are you coming to him without a plan B? Just ordinary and empty and broken and ready? Try it today. Come to the end of yourself, and then give it to Him.