More than I care to l admit, when I am frustrated, impatient, or angry about a thing or situation or person, my prayer to God sounds a lot like this:
Jesus, ______ (the thing/situation/person) makes me _______ (insert emotion). Please change _______ (the thing/situation/person again).
What’s that for you? Is that a person? The government? The situation you’re in?
You fill in the blanks. I’m sure your mind already did that for you.
I found myself praying this a lot recently. Not saying it’s bad; sometimes you just have to tell God how you really feel about that thing.
Unfortunately, after some time, I realised that my prayer wasn’t working.
No matter how many times I brought this up with God, paraphrased the words, or became real honest and vulnerable… nothing was happening. No change took place.
But isn’t prayer always supposed to work?
And am I not talking to God who supposedly hears me?
So shouldn’t He be doing something by now?
These were the very questions that fuelled me into deeper frustration and dare I even say, anxiety when it came to talking to God.
But because I knew that something wasn’t right, I decided to take a break from this prayer, talk to God about other stuff (like you know, COVID), then go back to this a few days later.
And so I jumped right back to it:
Jesus, ______ (the thing/situation/person) makes me _______ (insert emotion). Please change…
The thing that caught me by surprise was that, for the first time in months, I found myself changing the last part of that sentence.
In that pause, I was taken back to the reality of my humanity. I wasn’t God. I did not know how long or hard or laborious it would be to change that thing. But if change needed to happen and it looked like it was taking a while for that to change… then why couldn’t the thing that changed first be me instead of that or them?
Changing that last part of my prayer was part humbling and part liberating because in that moment, something did change. And it was the change that, in my pride, I didn’t think I needed. What’s more, this gave birth to other prayers:
Jesus, instead of asking You to make that person to understand me, I pray that You will help me understand them.
Jesus, instead of asking You to change this institution, or problem, or situation immediately, I pray that You will give me creativity and unique opportunities that will allow me to be a part od the solution.
Looking back, I don’t think it was a matter of saying the right words to get God to answer my prayer. But I do think that there are some prayers, just like this one, that need more time to marinate before you get to the real substance of it. So when I finally sifted past the layers of pride, self-righteousness, and anger, I found that God wasn’t as interested or determined in quickly changing the thing I was originally praying for. He was more interested in changing my heart. And maybe, in God’s mysterious ways and timing… that thing will one day change.
Don’t wait for that thing to change before you do. As of this writing, what I originally asked God for hasn’t moved (or at least as far as my limited mind can tell). But I did arrive at pocketfuls of answered prayers: a change of heart, a shift in perspective, more grace to wait, and peace of mind.