Problem of Prayer

Have you picked up The Screwtape Letters yet? I hope I have piqued your interest onimages some level. Here’s a questions we’ve all asked…

Does prayer work?

Actually, that aside, do you want prayer to work?

C.S. Lewis makes an insightful case against many of us who engage in prayer for any reason.

Don’t forget to use the “head I win, tails you lose” argument. If the thing he prays for doesn’t happen, then that is one more proof that petitionary prayers don’t work; if it does happen, he will, of course, be able to see some of the physical causes which led up to it, and “therefore it would have happened anyway”, and thus a granted prayer becomes just as good a proof as a denied one that prayers are ineffective.

It has frequently been noted that there are no atheists in fox holes. In other words, in the midst of dire or uncontrollable circumstances, almost anyone, for however brief a moment will resort to belief in God, and will, in sincerest tones, beseech the once blasphemed Creator to HELP!

We saw this happen at 9/11. It happens with every tsunami, hurricane and mass shooting. But then what?

It has also frequently been observed that the very ones who recently cried out to their Creator, just as quickly attribute His response to coincidence.

My husband and I are moving in a couple months. Not having children and not being high maintenance, and knowing that we’ll only live in our new domain for a year, we decided not to travel to GA to pick a house. Instead, after a few days of culling Military By Owner and realtor websites, we settled on one that seemed perfect. Actually, more honestly, we settled on one that I really felt God had “given” us.

When we called the owners, we were informed that there was another couple interested in the property and they were able to move in sooner, thus paying an extra month’s rent. If by chance, this first family fell through, we could rent the home.

How I prayed! “Lord, I really believe you said this is our house. It meets all our needs and it’s in our price range. Father, please allow us to rent this house!

Until the last minute, we waited. No word. I was pretty sure we’d lost our chance and I assumed that I had misheard God. Then, late on the last night, I got an email, “We’re sending the lease for your review. It looks like you’ll be our renters.”

Whew, that was close! And I almost did it. I almost thanked the owner and blessed my lucky starts.

But Father, thank you for knowing exactly what we need and providing it. And thank you even more, that you do speak to me, that you are wiling to speak to my heart even when my faith is weak. Lord, I believe. Take away my unbelief.

Broken Hallelujah: SheLovesMagazine

Broken Hallelujah. For a while now, I’ve been whole, or healing. Sure, I have a long list of cracks, dents and crevices. I fought with anorexia for a good 14 years. That left my body broken. Even after I had recovered mostly once, some of the weak spots began to leak again, letting in fear and old habits. The ache of brokenness came back. Many, many days I found myself dissolving on the floor in tears. The agony was fissures of helplessness, starting rivulets in downward spiral. I was sliding down the mouth of death’s cavern. My soul hurt even more than my body.

And I cried out in brokenness.

Hallelujah means “Praise Yahweh.” And I recently learned that “praise” actually means “to project” which is one way that it differs from worship. Worship can be silent, internal song, wonder and fellowship with God. But praise is vocal. It declares the glories and sufficiencies of God for others to hear.

Goodness knows, I cried out. Sometimes I screamed at God. Sometimes, on a lonely walk I sang an off-tune song of prayer. My praise came in waves of despair, but that despair was matched and surpassed by knowing Yahweh Rophe, the God who Heals. When my voice broke and my heart broke and my will broke, my praise might not have passed the litmus test for a church chorus, but it was my broken hallelujah.

Thankfully, those days are slipping farther and farther behind me. Their shadows finally don’t stretch long enough to darken today. But then, I break in other places. For sure, I know that I am not independent.

Ragged relationships have cut and scarred me. My husband’s own brokenness and sharp edges have wounded me, much as I have wounded him sometimes. Love is like that, you share your wounds and bleed on each other – and bear their burdens and salve their scars. But mostly, I’m healing from those wounds. He and I are closer than we’ve been before. A bone heals stronger where it was broken, that’s us: stronger now.

So, when the put the question: Broken Hallelujah, I thought – not now. Oh but it only takes a moment for a storm to strike and wreak havoc on a well-ordered heart. The lightening strikes fast and touches flame to old hurts. Dark clouds press down, nearly suffocating the tender ground. In one afternoon, my heart succumbed to storm surge and I found myself dissolving on the floor again, in tears.

We’re moving. My husband is an Army officer, so after 10 years of this, you’d think I’d be used to it. I thought I was. I thought I had puttied the cracks from past moves. All the severed relationships, the quick goodbyes. All the special places, kissed so-long and overnight, they’ll never be seen again.

I didn’t really want to bring God in on this hurt. This was something normal, just a circumstance, a career path. Moving with the military is simply my life, not a problem to be solved or anything that requires a solution. It shouldn’t break me, in fact, it’s a good sign that my husband is progressing in his job. We only crack under bad things, right?

Last night, a very broken me sprawled face first on the floor beside my bed. And a broken hallelujah, a broken declaration, an agonized announcement of my need for my very Good God, came out in a whisper.

God, it hurts to start the goodbyes. Weeks and months out, I start minimizing my impact on my community. I convince myself that I’m not needed here in this city, this church, this small group of friends will all go on without me. And soon, I’ll be in a new place with no one, so I might as well begin adjusting now to loneliness.

And I fear the moments I am alone, that they mean I’m getting too comfortable by myself and will lose connection with… And God I know you’re enough, but you didn’t intend man to be alone. But…

And there my hallelujah stops. It breaks off without closure or final seem. Instead, the hallelujah still leaks from my brokenness onto the floor. And I’m still murmuring this broken hallelujah.

‘Cause all that I can sing is a broken Hallelujah

And my only offering is shattered praise

Still a song of adoration will rise up from these ruins

And I will worship You and give you thanks

Even when my only praise is a broken Hallelujah

What Will I Do If I Ever Grow Up?

Kylie trudges along on her back, scooting her bald spot across the carpet, rubbing away the downy baby fuzz. Her mom watches carefully, shielding the corner of the hearth with her body.

For six months, every day has been a new beginning. From the first breach of the womb, to the first explosive diaper, the first bath, the first trip to the nursery. What will she be when she grows up? Glimpses backwards at photos of Mom and Dad spur expectations for the future.

But I make no plans. I’m still wondering what I will be when I grow up. What will I do with the rest of my life?

My husband is in the Army. When I pledged myself to him, ten years ago, I could only see two years down our timeline. Those same two years have traced a loop five times. And I still wonder, what will I be when I grow up?

I have unpacked a new home in four states. Each time it felt like getting my own room for the very first time; childhood swept over me from behind.

Barely tall enough to ride a roller coaster, I wanted to be brave. Four plain walls to paint any color I wished. The first night in my new room, I woke up fumbling for the bathroom and walked straight into the closet. I lay awake for hours, keenly aware of new creaks and groans exhaled by the walls. I am still that way, grown up.

In state number three, unpacking felt like Christmas. Excitement buzzed between my husband and me as we pulled brown paper packages from crudely labeled boxes. With each subsequent move, there was even a “first Christmas” ornament.

Pulling out of my driveway and yielding at an unfamiliar intersection was learning to walk all over again. Round-abouts posed threats similar to trying to roller skate the day after my first baby step. I got lost and confused, cars buzzed by me at grownup speeds. Every landmark looked the same, like being surrounded by dozens of adult knees, all clad in denim.

My heart cringes with sympathy for those poor families sent overseas. I struggle to simply learn my new city’s slang. Once, I ventured a comment about the civil war in a coffee shop in southern Georgia. I was nearly run out of town on a rail, unaware that it was really “the war of northern aggression.” I do my best to mimic the vernacular of the natives; I am often rewarded by chuckles and a lesson in diction.

Crossing the stage at my alma mater, I believed I was done with new school jitters. Now, bi-annually, I subject myself to that same drama as I search for a new church and gym. I try to walk confidently down crowded halls, pretending I know where I’m going. I don’t want to be singled out as the new girl and introduced to the women’s ministry leader or the locally famous personal trainer.

I stalk bulletin boards, scanning them for post-its about groups, clubs and classes where I can show up anonymously and make friends on my own terms. I wonder how I should dress for the worship service? Is this a casual khaki environment or your mother’s Sunday best?

Perhaps the greatest challenge of each new home, is finding a new hairdresser. That decision alone has the power to effect every first impression. A highlighting mistake or failed permanent out weighs the worst “baby’s first haircut.” Even a bowl cut or months of unexplained baldness pale in comparison to green hair. The effects of my worst experience lingered through the next move.

My life feels like a broken record. No steady career lengthens my resume. Few accolades for community service can be garnered in 24 months. By the time I’ve mastered these rudimentary skills it’s time to leave again.

Kylie is almost walking now. Things that were once experiments are now old habits. Soon she will say, “Momma,” and then graduate to big-girl words like, “dog,” and, “Mississippi.” That is the way life is supposed to be: you scale the step ladder, climb the tree, and one day the corporate ladder.

Me? I am still wondering what I will do when I grow up.