Dangerous Prayers

zippySometimes I read things in the Bible and think, fair enough.  But sometimes I struggle.  Sometimes, I have to suppress an audible snort.

Romans 5:3 is a case in point.

‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope’.

13 years ago Glen and I were just about to get together. He’d been reading Phil 3:10 and (in a moment of madness) prayed, ‘Lord, if it will help me to know you better, bring me suffering.’

A week later, he’d been unexpectedly deported and had his life turned upside down. Nice one Glen, said I.

Anyway.  We worked it through, (yes I’m the green card) and I thought it was forgotten.  But one night when we were praying together, he did it again.

‘Lord, as and when you bring suffering into our lives, please help us to know you better.  And…’

My eyes flicked open. I thumped his arm.

‘Wait.  Woooah.  Did you just pray what I thought you prayed?’

”What?’

‘Suffering.  Did you just ask God for suffering?’

‘Not exactly. I asked that God would use the suffering that’s coming to bring us closer to Him.’

(I sat up and switched on the light).

‘What suffering? If suffering’s coming we need to pray God would PREVENT it, not use it! Have you READ THE BIBLE? Job and boils and plagues and shipwrecks  – it’s serious, serious stuff’.

He looked shocked, so I closed my eyes and continued:

‘Dear God. No Suffering.  Please. Not for me God – that’s for Glen.  I’m not asking for suffering and I’d like out of that prayer.  All the rest I completely endorse – but not that bit’.

Silence. I opened my eyes again and hissed (so God wouldn’t hear);

‘He answers prayers you know!  They don’t just float up to the ceiling!’

[Glen looked at me with big reproachful eyes so I closed mine and ploughed on]

‘Ok. Ok – Lord, it’s not that I don’t want the things you want.  If suffering’s coming and there’s no way out and you’d planned it already then – then please help us through it.  But if it’s an option, then please not. It’s not that I don’t trust you, but I get sad and scared by even small things and suffering is a big term and I’m worried that if it happens to me I’ll fall apart and not trust you.  And I’m not like Glen.  I’m not brave and I’m not good at evangelising and this is a prayer for top level Christians but I’m still learning the basics’.

….

‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope’.

Suffering scares me. It’s a grand term requiring I think, an equally grand person. The things I struggle with seem much smaller – and they’re bad enough. But if they are suffering, like the Bible says, then that’s quite enough.

Seems to me, the best case scenario for suffering is survival.  Scraping through. But glorying in it?   No. Way. And the next bit makes even less sense. ‘Suffering produces…hope’. I sort-of follow the bits in-between.  If things are hard you have to persevere.  And that makes you stronger which gives you more character. But – how does suffering give you hope?  Doesn’t it just make you sad and squashed?

I think about the times I’ve found hardest. Childlessness, depression, sickness, grief.  An eating disorder. There’s no glory in my weakness and there’s no glory in my sin.

But …

through these things, Christ has worked.  Not despite them: through them.

I only started to hope, when I gave up hoping in myself. I never wanted a broken Saviour – until I was broken myself.

His suffering is my hope.  And as I share in it – incredibly – I share in His glory too.

12 thoughts on “Dangerous Prayers

  1. You’re so right about those kind of prayers. I recall my late wife praying “Anywhere you want me to go, Lord, I’m willing”. Three days later, she was on her way to Hong Kong, where she spent several weeks sleeping on stone floors as she helped refugee boat people. A couple of years later, she did it again, and ended up in Denmark. I used to pray, “Thank you Lord that you’ve brought us to this place”, but we did have some reckless times, which included digging up our kitchen floor to build a baptistry. Spurgeon said you should only pray for many things if you expect to be part of the answer… Prayer sometimes need a label – handle with care.

  2. That’s a terrifying prayer. I’m just not brave enough for that. At the moment, my prayer life goes ‘Lord, I can’t do it. But you can. So I’ll hang on in there…if you’ll hang on to me’. And that seems dangerous enough right now. Somehow though, even in that almost faithless, slightly desperate prayers, there seems to be…hope. I don’t want to suffer, but somehow in the desperation God is there.

    hmm. Not making a huge amount of sense, but thanks Emma, you really made me think.

  3. Wow, thank you Emma.

    I recall a little over a year ago my eyes had been affixed to a verse in Philippians where Paul speaks of knowing the fellowship of Christ’s suffering and the power of his resurrection. Sometime after I caught up with a friend, pondering all sorts of things. I spoke of what I had read and before I left, we prayed that, as Paul, I would know these things too.

    The last year has been incredibly rough. I’ve seen death, depression, hurting people on the edge of suicide, all sorts of brokenness both inside and out. Yet never have I been so convinced that the resurrection is the only hope in the world.

    From across the pond,
    Cal

  4. I remember praying the exact same words that Glen did in his moment of madness a year ago (although I guess I did mine not knowing what on earth I was asking for), because of the same verse. Ever since, I’ve been diagnosed with a anxiety disorder, suffering depressive symptoms and generally not liking the whole experience ha. But yes. In retrospect it was a prayer answered I suppose, cant say I havent gotten to know our Father better! Not saying I enjoyed the experience though!

  5. Be careful what we pray for, huh? ‘Yet never have I been so convinced that resurrection is the only hope for the world’. Amen!

  6. I laughed at your account of praying with Glen. My husband prayed ‘May we hold the things of this world with a light hand’ and the next morning his newly converted potato shed went up in smoke!
    But on a serious note, we’ve been praying for healing of a friend who was suffering with mental illness and that he would be lead by still waters and know restoration of peace in his soul. He committed suicide yesterday and I’m angry that evil appears to have won this battle for his life. But then Jesus reminded me that He is not the God of the dead but of the living.
    So, yes, the resurrection is the best message in the world and one day all things will be made new, including my friend.

  7. Dear Emma, you’ve done it again. I’ve got so used to hearing from the spiritually sensitive, gifted, extravert, sure-of-their-position-with-God folk who tend to be the ones up at the front, that I wonder if a non-spiritual doubter like myself is actually part of the Family at all. Then you come along and expose your own weakness, and I think maybe there is hope after all. I scan a range of Christian blogs (yes, Glen’s too) but yours is the one that most often picks me up and gives me gems to treasure for days afterwards. You’re a Godsend. Thank you.

  8. I was sexually, mentally, emotionally and verbally abused by my grandfather as far back as I can remember. He did many terrible things, some of which are too distasteful for me to talk about publicly. I want to share my testimony, because so many people have been hurt, and they need to realize that someone has made it through their struggles so they can have hope. More than anything, I want you to know and really understand that anyone who has been abused can fully recover if they will give their life completely to the Lord…It may seem impossible, but God’s truth has set me free from a life of pretense and lies and has restored my soul. I am living proof that nothing is too hard for God. No matter what you’ve been through or how bad you’ve been hurt, there is hope!
    My book is available at Amazon and I would love for each person who has liked this page to order a copy. Each copy sold will go toward the prevention of child abuse across the country and world. The Little Girl Inside. God Bless, Diane Waltman

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