Abiding Prayer

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“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  (John 15:7)

I remember learning as a tiny child that when we pray, God can answer three ways: yes, no or wait.  And I remember thinking as a tiny (and apparently already cynical) child that “wait” seemed like a cop out answer—and that maybe it was our way of rationalizing when God didn’t really answer at all.

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher had her baby too soon.  As this tiny boy struggled in the hospital, I took to praying like I never had before.  I curled under the blankets on the top bunk and poured out my little heart to God.  I begged for this baby’s life to be spared.  I prayed more specifically, more persistently, more passionately than I ever had before.  I asked with all the earnestness and sincerity of faith that a nine year old could muster (which, in retrospect, I think is quite a lot).

A few days later, the baby died.  Some would say that God answered my prayer with a no.  But here’s the thing.  I found something there, in those honest, pleading moments that I hadn’t experienced before.  It was a closeness, a connection, an intensity that words can’t quite capture.  And I wanted more.  Jesus might have answered my prayer with a no, but he also answered my prayer with himself.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is the nature of abiding prayer.  Sometimes the answer is yes.  Sometimes no.  Sometimes not now (or not yet, or wait).  But the answer is always Jesus.  His grace for our shortcomings.  His peace for our anxiety.  His love for our judgment.  His power for our desperation.  His presence in our joy and grief, our passion and apathy, our striving and letting go.

What are you praying for tonight?  If you are living in Christ and allowing his words to live in you, be encouraged.  Pray.  Ask.  He is the answer.

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