Unanswered Prayers

April 18, 2014 · 6:30 am

During each Sunday of Lent, our pastor asked someone from the congregation to share a story from their personal journey that related to the scripture for that week. She asked me to share the week we read about Nicodemus: a man who couldn’t seem to get a straightforward answer to the questions he asked Jesus.  Below is a modified version of what I shared.

Unanswered Prayers

The straight and narrow.

It’s always been confounding to me that we would call the day that commemorates the death of Jesus “Good Friday.  I understand that there were many good things that followed, but on Good Friday no one knew that those things were coming.  They were living in a reality where their worst fears had been realized and their prayers hadn’t been answered.

I know this reality. I grew up as the daughter of missionaries living in rural Kenya.  When I say rural, I mean a place where there was no electricity or running water, and the primary mode of transportation was walking. We owned one of the community’s only vehicles, which on any given trip usually carried three or four times the number of people it was designed to seat. My mom, with a two-year nursing degree, provided the only medical services in the area through the small one-room clinic beside our house. Every day, dozens of people lined up outside, hoping to be treated for various maladies, from minor cuts and burns to tropical diseases like malaria.

One day, when I was about thirteen, my mom asked those of us in the house to come over to the clinic where a mother had just brought her very, very sick baby. We laid our hands on his tiny little body and prayed for healing. Then the mother and baby were hurried into my father’s waiting truck so that he could drive them to the nearest hospital several hours away. The baby died halfway there. I remember curling up on my bed, thinking about faith and mustard seeds, and wondering if we could have saved him if we had prayed just a little bit harder – if it was my doubt that had killed him.

It’s been almost fifteen years since that day, and I’m no closer to understanding prayer now than I was then. In fact, if a lifetime of prayers has taught me anything, it’s that they are far more likely to be answered with silence than with miracles.

With this in mind, I imagine watching the events of Good Friday as my dear friend and the leader of my cause is rushed through a mockery of a trial, humiliated, beaten, and ultimately, publicly crucified. It is bad.  I imagine the vicious, ripping pain that comes with the death of a friend, the fear that comes with the crushing of a cause, the hopelessness the comes with the loss of a leader.  Two days of this reality would be more than enough to break a person, and I imagine that is how Jesus found his people when he finally came back to them – broken.

But if two days had turned into two weeks, then two months, then two years, the wounds would have healed.  They might have healed well, leaving delicate scars as a meaningful reminder of purpose.

Or they might have healed badly, and become permanent mutilations, too painful to be soothed by vague promises of a future hope. This is where I am – beyond the the violent pain of brokenness, but very much changed.  I no longer consider myself a “follower of God” because I’m not convinced he’s up ahead of me on the straight and narrow path I’ve been walking.  I’ve chosen to veer from that path, because in the absence of answers, I demand at least to own my questions and my doubt. This is not faithless. It is faithful.  Because even as my list of questions grows longer and longer, and the list of things I know to be true grows shorter and shorter, I choose to seek the will of God. I am no longer a follower of God, but I am a seeker of God.

4 Thoughts on “Unanswered Prayers

  1. Abyjawn on April 18, 2014 at 9:42 am said:

    May I suggest reading this book “Power in Praise” By Merlin Carothers. It just might help answer some questions you may have about prayer. God bless you

  2. Yours sounds like a lovely church.

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