are bent in prayer…
is this then
how one springs to life?
Several years ago, Amanda Hostettler led a worship seminar for our homeschool co-op, challenging us to ‘get on our faces,’ foreheads to the ground. The physical action was intended to open a doorway – our hearts and minds to follow – in worship. Obstacle one occurred in that Little Miss Sweetness was being squirrelly that morning, so I didn’t manage ‘facedown’ at the time. I later snuck away to the backstage closet to try again. Obstacle two: my left knee was swollen from a mild running injury so I could not fully bend it to kneel. To get my forehead to the floor, I either had to stretch out prone, or resort to…heigh, ho, hoist the derriere, way up in the air.
I was hoping no one would wander in to witness my duck impersonation, but I also was struck by the vulnerability of my position. Certainly I felt vulnerable before man, both comically, and perhaps tragically, depending on whose story I carried at the moment. But I also was struck by my lack of vulnerability before God. I realized I had been withholding my deeper fears and concerns from God, trying to fix them on my own before darkening his footstool. I was bringing him only the half-finished ‘middle stuff’, a modest representation of the things I felt I could let go of a little, and still have some sense of control; or offering the trivial stuff – treating him like a figurehead instead of a real God, one who is fearsome in power.
So in that quiet closet sanctuary, tail to the sky I began to release to God all the tight-fisted fears and worries I had been holding: fears for my children, personal stuff, and marriage stuff and really scary stuff that I had no idea how to navigate. As I did so, I was filled with a peace I hadn’t experienced in a long time. Worship flowed out of a thankfulness that God was present, not pissed, at my inability to fix my life. He certainly wasn’t surprised by anything I told him…and he didn’t seem to think I was incapable, or unengaged, or incomplete. It appears he had been waiting all along, patiently, to carry my burdens in his sufficiently more capable hands.
Lots of roles that we fill in life are fearsome: parenting, partnering with friends, spouse, loved ones as we all navigate the unexpected or the mundane; anything new …decision-making with consequences. How often I fail, or find myself assailed by a sense of failure, at not knowing enough, or not being able to do enough to fix a loved one’s illness, or a child’s learning struggle. Sometimes, not being enough to fill what is asked of one is fearsome, even if the request is unspoken.
How novel, in that closet moment, to consider that we are not supposed to be enough. We are supposed to live as if there were a direct line flowing from God’s strength into our veins, the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead. We are meant to live, wild with confidence, not in our capability, but in his; not in our outcomes, but in his steadfast determination. Certainly, we are invited to use whatever tools God’s Spirit gives us, but when the burden becomes too big and wide for our size-S hands, when our knowing is not enough, we are supposed to move the mountain by handing it to him in bucket-loads of prayer. We are meant to stay engaged by simply preparing the way for Jesus to visit. See Luke 10: 1, 19,20; Mark 9:14-29.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
19. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Mark 9:14-29. And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out[fn] and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”[fn]
When our third daughter transitioned from home to public school, she spent an hour each evening releasing her worries, observations, ‘what-do–I-do now’ questions to God. She told me, “Mom, I don’t really pray, I just tell God everything, like he was my friend.” She stated it with question marks, as if asking if that were legitimate. Gee whiz – do you think I might have caught on then???
A couple ideas continue to surface from that day: God invites our vulnerability; he welcomes the intimacy. “I believe, Help my unbelief!”
And in bringing such an ‘offering’, I find myself springing to life, to worship, in the least likely places.