Monday, March 31, 2014

A Dash of Desire: Praying Big, Stupid Prayers

The beginning of 2014 started out differently for me this year and it left me feeling somewhat uncomfortable. See, for the past six years, I've picked a "Word of the Year." In 2008 it was, "Create." In '09 it was "Kingdom" and in 2010 it was "Indulge." In 2011 we were preparing madly for our move to Minnesota, enduring many changes, and so my word was, "Flow." Arriving in Minnesota in January 2012 was a whole new chapter in our lives and with it came the word, "Discover." In 2013, still recovering from the shock of the Connecticut shootings only weeks earlier, I chose the word, "Walk."

 I love the beginning of the new year for setting goals, choosing words, casting visions. But this year I felt I just couldn't. This year I am back to school for the first time in over 20 years. This year I am graduating my first child from our homeschool. This year that same child is in a time and labor-intensive play and opening night is THIS Friday!
I joked that my word might be, "Survive." But yech. What an awful word. I NEVER want that kind of word point the direction or cast the net to encapsulate the feeling of a year! I found that last year I didn't do as much with my word, "Walk" as I'd hoped I would and so this year I thought maybe I'd just let unfold in the way it wanted to. There's certainly nothing wrong with this and no, I still don't have a word. With so much on my plate - and some of it intrinsically tied to the fulfillment of a goal already with school - I just thought I didn't - or maybe shouldn't - want anything more.

But then I began to get restless. I felt left out of the fun somehow. I wasn't adding to any wish list and I began to feel a bit like I was just checking things off a to-do list, but I didn't have anything to dream about.

Plus, I had this kind of niggling feeling that maybe my wants were a bit selfish. Well, of course they're selfish, because they're all about me. But our church was reading Radical Together at the time and in that book people are giving up houses in posh neighborhoods to start community centers, they're adopting children, or they're becoming missionaries... and I don't feel called to do any of that. I mean, I may at some point; I never underestimate what God can do and if He wants to put that into my heart, He will. But how can you figure out what you want to aspire to or be or bring to the world if you're hesitant to even name it? I felt stuck, because honestly, one of my top desires is to travel to England someday. I mean, I really want to go. I get choked up just thinking about it for some reason.

I also knew that my thinking about it had to be wrong somehow, because I didn't have peace. I don't subscribe to ideas presented in books like The Secret, but I also know that everything we see that isn't created by God came first from an idea in the mind of a man or woman. The amazing mind of a man or woman. And I believe that a part of being created in God's image is that we are creators too. Creating is often a messy business, though, and so you often have to start with lots of ideas... stemming from desires... that will help form you into the person you are to become and the gifts you are going to bring to the world.

To that end I knew I needed to pick up a few books on the subject to gain some perspective. I'm about a third of the way into The Circle Maker and I'm enjoying it so far. Batterson's writing is a little bit glib for me sometimes, but I love his enthusiasm, optimism and stories of the way God has answered prayer in some pretty amazing ways. In reading reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, I noted that some people feel like Batterson leans - if not all the way in - pretty close to a "name it and claim it" philosophy. I'm reserving judgement however, as I move through the book. So far, what I'm really getting from the book is that Batterson is saying "pray about it." Yeah, circles or no circles (that's all part of a metaphor Batterson plays on throughout the book anyway), it's really just about praying. But what I like is that it's about praying BIG.

That's the part that I sometimes hesitate on, but I am trying to change that, because I learned something new this week - not from The Circle Maker - but from an old, familiar, story in the Bible.

Perhaps you remember the story about the request of James and John related in Mark chapter 10. I have read this story many times before and, as is so often with God's Word, it has multiple layers of meaning and taught me something completely different this time!

Jesus had just - and I mean just - finished telling them that He was going to be betrayed in Jerusalem, condemned to death, flogged and killed and that three days later He would rise. And it's like James and John (brothers) are not even hearing that part about the whole betrayal and flogging and death thing. They are incredibly bold and say to Jesus, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask." "'What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. They replied, 'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.'"

Um, wow. Now that's a big prayer. And I think we could all agree that it was somewhat misguided as well. But what I learned this week is that Jesus didn't walk away from them. He didn't get angry with them. He didn't shame or punish them for asking such a selfish, selfish request of Him. He just patiently replies, "You don't know what you are asking." And then He goes on to explain to them that His kingdom is an upside down kingdom where the greatest must serve. And guess what? He is still their friend. He still takes them along with Him and in the end they still did much for the kingdom of God.

I guess the main thing I learned is that God is okay with our stupid, selfish prayers too. He gets to decide what He'll do with them and won't shame me about it in the meantime. More likely, like Jesus, He'll tell me the truth and teach me something about His way and His vision that is so much bigger than mine. I"ll learn something more about Him and know Him even better and that's what it's really all about anyway.

So, I'm making new lists now. And yes, England is right at the top. Heaven knows if I ever get there, it'll be by God's grace and only if He says "yes." And if He does say yes, I can't wait to see what He'll do with that big, stupid, selfish prayer. :)

I'm linking up with Book Journey today. Lots of great books, so hop on over and find something new for your nightstand! Happy Monday, all!

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