I hate prayer. There I said it.
I think I heard you gasp in horror. I feel ashamed for saying. But let me tell you why.
As a child, I prayed for God to keep my parents marriage together, but it ended in divorce.
As a young woman, I met weekly with a friend experiencing turmoil in her marriage and we prayed through “The Power of a Praying Wife.” I prayed confidently believing that God would heal and restore my friend’s marriage because, after all, “God hates divorce” and he is a God of reconciliation. Yet this marriage ended too.
Fast forward 10 years or so and now I am a middle-aged woman with a friend dying of cancer. Once again I pray fervently. I ask for God to heal, to restore her health. I cry out to the Great Physician and know He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. She died.
Years later I experience misunderstandings, hurt, and confusion with someone I respected in ministry. I pray that God will unify us, believing I am praying in agreement with Jesus when He prayed that we may be One just as He and the Father are one. There has been no healing, no restoration, no unity.
What am I to do with this? I know what some of you will say, you will argue that people have free will and God won’t force anyone to do anything. Okay, I accept that, but why pray when the answer is dependent on humans and God isn’t going to change their minds?
Some will say we should pray because prayer changes us. These prayers changed me. They did. But not in a good way. They made me question my faith. After all, “the prayers of a righteous man avails much.” My prayers availed zip, zero, nada. Maybe I wasn’t righteous enough? Maybe I didn’t have enough faith? Or maybe I needed to be a man?
It has taken me a long time to work through my hurt, anger, and disappointment in God. I quit asking God for anything. I couldn’t stand the blow to my faith.
I’m not upset anymore that my prayers weren’t answered in the ways I had expected, hoped for, or desired. Enough time has passed, I have grown, and I have begun to see prayer differently.
Jesus prayed, “Let this cup pass… however, not my will but yours be done. Then an angel came and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:42-43)
These verses remind me that even Jesus’s prayers weren’t answered quite the way he would have liked. They reminded me that sometimes God doesn’t intervene in the outcomes, but he does somehow show up and strengthen or comfort us.
You see, my parents divorced, but I got a wonderful stepmom and stepdad. My life is better because they are in it.
My friend’s marriage did end in divorce, but she was freed from an abusive relationship and went on to marry the love of her life and is very
happy. Her divorce taught me that God cares more about individuals than he does about the institution of marriage.
My friend did die of cancer, but God did comfort me. One night as I was tucking my son into bed, I asked him to pray God would heal Ms. Pam. My sweet boy looked into my eyes and said, “Mom, just think, Ms. Pam is about to see everything she’s always believed in but hasn’t seen yet!” I knew in that moment Pam would not survive and yet she would be more alive than ever.
I do believe the Spirit intercedes for us and sometimes, I sit quietly and ask if there’s something I can pray with him. Mostly I don’t hear anything. Only once in a dream has God told me to pray for someone’s healing. The next morning, I mumbled a half-hearted and faithless prayer for their healing and learned later that the prayer had been answered! I don’t pretend to understand. I think he would have healed them without my prayer so maybe that prayer was for me, to restore some faith that God does hear and God does still physically heal (sometimes, but rarely).
There were verses on prayer that vexed me and some that still do:
Matthew 21:22 says, “If you believe (have faith), you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
This verse didn’t line up with my experience, or so I thought! It wasn’t until I remembered Romans 10:17, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (the word of God is not the Bible but it is Jesus).
I realized I had not heard Jesus or the Spirit tell me what to pray. I had simply prayed for what I wanted and thought God must want too.
So these days, I don’t pray for much. Instead, I listen to the voice that calls me his beloved and says good things about me. I am comforted and strengthened and wonder if that’s the whole purpose of prayer?
I think I agree with author Philip Yancey, “The most important purpose of prayer may be to let our true selves be loved by God.”
Amy Chumbley is a recovering religious addict who began writing as a form of therapy. Her work has been published in several online magazines including: She Loves, Perennial Gen, The Glorious Table, The Grit and Grace Project and more. Her business, “Breathing Room Interiors,” has given her the opportunity to pursue her passion for creating beautiful and functional homes. She is a military spouse, proud mama, and dog lover.
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Keith Giles and his wife, Wendy, work with Peace Catalyst International to help build relationships between Christians and Muslims in El Paso, TX. Keith was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church over a decade ago to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today he is the author of the best-selling “Jesus Un” series of books, including “Jesus Unforsaken: Substituting Divine Wrath With Unrelenting Love” which is available now on Amazon.