Yesterday I had some initial thoughts on Miller’s statement on praying in the midst of our stories.
In the flow of his argument (in A Praying Life), he moves from the story of the Canaanite woman to another woman and her needy daughter. Namely, his wife and their disabled daughter Kim. He shares how his wife Jill wrestled with God over a 25 year period for Kim, illustrating how prayer is integrated into our stories, and how those two things working together create a richness and complexity in our relationship with God.
He shares how Jill would pray for strength and faith as she faced the challenges of Kim’s condition. Week after week after week. She wrote this in her prayer journal right after she discovered she was pregnant with their sixth child, Emily. Kim is 5 at the time.
I’m now 32 – oh dear! I wonder what this year will bring. Maybe Kim talking? It has ben very hard for me not seeing much progress in Kim. We are in the middle of her being evaluated again at Children’s Hopsital of Philadelphia. It’s so hard to tell what she can’t do or just won’t do. All of this is so hard…hard to see and still believe Jesus loves her and me and hears me beg for her continual healing. It really is faith that is at stake – the suffering is really a side issue. Just to tell Jesus what I need and leave it with him is such a struggle – especially as I see Kim struggle daily. It really breaks my heart.
Do you see what Jill sees? “It really is faith that is at stake – the suffering is really a side issue.” She is wrestling with resting in her Father. Learning in the story, even as she prays for a turn in the plot-line. Two days after this entry, Jill writes:
Give me the faith to leave this with you. Please help her to talk.
Her husband, Paul, writes:
Then the journal goes silent. It would be 10 years before Jill would have the faith and the energy to write another entry in her prayer journal. It would be 20 years before Kim would begin to speak, at age 25.
Jesus’ ambiguous interaction with both Jill and the Canaanite woman is a minicourse on prayer. God permitted a difficult situation in both of their lives, and then he lingered at the edge. Not in the center, at the edge….God [was not] a magic prayer machine…When God seems silent and our prayers go unanswered, the overwhelming temptation is to leave the story – to walk out of the desert and attempt to create a normal life. But when we persist in a spiritual vacuum, when we hang in there during ambiguity, we get to know God. In fact, that is how intimacy grows in all close relationships.
The rest of the story is found in a wife who did not walk out of the desert, out of the story God had written. Yes the journal went silent. But the longings did not. The praying did not stop, despite the weariness, discouragement, and pain.
So, what is the point of sharing all this?
I don’t know that it is all that different from yesterday’s conclusion. We should not look at prayer as the means to get us out of the ambiguity, out of the desert. Rather, it is the way that we commune with, relate to, grow in intimacy with the Father as he walks the path with us. We may be experiencing ambiguity, as Miller says, but God is not wondering what turn the path will take up ahead. He knows. So we keep going to him. Keep crying out to him.
So often we say that in such experiences we are “growing.” What do we mean when we say that? What we should mean is that we are growing closer to him. And prayer is a big part of that.
What do you think?
Hoping to live a praying life with you.