Molding a lump of clay

Molding a lump of clay
I am a work in progress, molded by my Maker, refined by His fire, shaped with His love. Walk the journey with me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

When prayers seem to make the situation worse...

Have you ever prayed for something, and seemed to get the opposite of what you asked for?

Not long ago I read the following prayer-poem in Amy Carmichael’s book “God’s Missionary”:

“Searcher of spirits,
Try thou my reins and heart.
Cleanse Thou my inward part,
Turn, overturn and turn.
Wood, hay and stubble see,
Spread out before Thee,
Burn, burn
Savior of sinners,
Out of the depths I cry,
Perfect me or I die:
Perfect me, patient One,
In Thy revealing light,
I stand confessed outright,
O to be holy!
Thou wilt not say me nay
Who movest me to pray.
Enable to endure:
Spiritual cleansing Fire,
Fulfill my heart’s desire.
Make pure.”

It really touched me and led me to cry out, “Dear Jesus…that’s my prayer too! I know You see all the junk in my heart…the useless talk, the selfish ambition, the lack of quality time with you, the pride, etc. etc. I know Your desire is as strong, or stronger, than mine…to cleanse my inward part and burn all that junk away. I cry the same…’Perfect me or I die!’ I am undone…I see my sin and it sickens me. Give me strength and grace and power to endure the spiritual fire, and through it all, Lord, make me pure!”

Of course, within days I’m fighting with my husband, shouting at my kids and generally despising everyone I work with. My journal entry reads, “Fight this battle for me, Lord…Without You I am just an angry selfish woman…Help me! I hate to see myself revert back to the old ways. I thought I was changing…I need your strength, comfort, reassurance, guidance.” I was filled with condemnation and beat myself up for being such a loser.

A friend of mine recently got serious about a mild form of asthma she’s had, and bolstered her faith to pray for healing. Her teammates surrounded her, laid hands on her, and proclaimed healing in Jesus’ name. Three days later she had the first serious asthma attack she’s ever had.

One last example…John and I got serious about our prayer times together, and started praying for each other before going to bed. We want to see God work in our marriage in a new way and draw us closer to each other as we seek Him together. A few days after we started this, we went for a lunch date and had a painful discussion that ruined our meal and our date.

As I prayed with a friend about it, I was reminded about my ‘perfect me or I die’ prayer, and my friend’s healing prayer, and John and my nightly prayers, and how in each case we seemed to get the very opposite of what we prayed for. Our prayers actually seemed to make the situations worse.

But did they? Or did they stir something up that in the first instance looks worse, but is just preparing the way for something better? Like the dross in the refiner’s fire that bubbles to the surface and gathers there in all its hideousness until the goldsmith scoops it all away and leaves the pure, refined gold. Was my anger and my friend’s asthma attack and my fight with John all part of that dross? Is God answering our prayers by bringing to the surface whatever is in the way of His work in our lives so we can deal with it and move on?

I like to think so, because the God I know wants the best for me, not the worst. But purity and growth and change don’t come easily. Paul exhorts us to press on towards the goal, to strain for the prize (Phil 3:14). Strain rhymes with pain, and the two go hand in hand, but if we can remember to keep our eyes on Jesus, and trust His strength, not our own…I believe we’ll see the victory in these areas where we struggle. But the key is to remember that it’s not our power or might that will win the fight, but the grace of God working in us.

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13)

1 comment:

Jennie-Joy said...

This post really hit home this evening for some reason... thanks, Vikki. :)