Monday, October 16, 2006

The Unpredictability of Prayer

Peace and blessings,

I wanted to share something with you, something that God revealed to me a few about 6 months ago. But first, I have to add some contextual background...

About a week and a half ago, my girl told me about an interesting phenomena she observed while at Kaiser. Basically, she was telling me how she watched a woman who, after having an unpleasant interaction with a woman of a different race, kept telling her young son (who by girl thinks could not be any older than 7 years old) that the other woman was mean. In particular, the mother kept telling her child something to the effect that "see, now that's a mean, mean woman," and so forth. Moreover, the mother made sure that her voice was extremely soft and her demeaner was overly nice, as to provide her son with a sharp contrast between the nice, sweet mother and the mean woman of another race. After my girl told me exactly why this observation upset her so much (namely because she felt that the mother was using her influence as his mother to convince her son that the other woman was mean), we came up with the following "theory" regarding the development of prejudice and/or racist attitudes among children. In particular, the idea that the development of prejudice and/or racist beliefs within a child may result from the child's learned association between a person of another race and another trait. Further, this association (and thus its affects on the child's development of discriminatory attitudes) is stronger when the child learns this association from an influencial authority figure (e.g. his mother, etc...).

How does this incident relate to prayer you might ask? I provide this story as contextual background because as a child, I underwent a similar process in which I came to associate a behavior with an influential person in my life. That person was my great aunt. She's a matriarch of the family in that all of my cousins and I grew up over her house, as she would babysit all of us. She also one of the most annointed, sweet, and "filled with the holy ghost" type folks I have ever met. In fact, I truly believe that she is an angel, always providing the family with the type of love and spiritual guidance we always need but rarely know how to ask for it or truly appreciate it. Every day, she would pray over all of us( her children, myself and our cousins). In addition, she would spend hours in her room praying to God. As a look back, i realize that she provided me with a great deal of the spiritual foundation that I working to strenghten today.

Although as a child I didn't fully understand what the Christian walk would entail, or who God was for that matter, But started emulating my aunt's prayer behavior for two reasons. One was that you simply couldn't grow up in her house hold and not talk to God, lol. The other, and more important reason, was that even though I didn't quite know what she was doing or why, I knew HER. I knew that she always had my best interests at heart, and whoever she was praying to must be pretty important, because she truly was (and still is, of course) a strong, wise, and beautiful person. So, whenever I would be experiencing hardships, i would get on my knees and attempt to talk to God. Out of the many things I would pray for ( and out of a need to preserve my character I'm not going to name all of them, lol), the thing that I prayed for the most was for my parents to stop arguing. When I was younger, they used to argue all the time, and I was scared that they were going to get a divorce. Despite many nights of praying, my parents continued to argue (and in some instances the arguments got worse). Once my sister came into the picture and was old enough to realize what was going on, I became less concerned with how the arguing affected me, and more concerned with how I could prevent it from affecting her.

Now plenty years have passed and I've gotten older. Further, I have come to know for myself, the same God that my aunt so fervently prayed to day in and day out. Although I could now say that I had a personal relationship with God, at times I would still feel that because my parents didn't stop arguing, that God did not answer my prayer. However recently, out of nowwhere, it was if God spoke to me and was like "look at the bigger picture." I thought about my fellings regarding the answering of prayer, and how sometimes when I would tell others to trust God I would feel like a hypocrite because deep down I felt like that one my sincerest prayers as a child did not get answered. However, as I widened my perspective of who God is and the extent of our relationship, it became clear that many times when i pray, my "prayer-scope" is limited due to the limitations of my human nature and rationality. Because my parents didn't go from arguing to "the Huxtables," I thought that God "dropped the ball" with regards to that prayer. Despite my doubting of God, he nevertheless reminded me that He did in fact answer my prayer, but He answered it HIS way, which was in much broader scope than I had initially perceived. Even though in my prayer I wanted my parents to stop arguing, what I really wanted (e.g. my heart desired) was for my parents to stay together. By the grace of God they just recently celebrated their 23rd anniversary and I don't have to spit out divorce statistics to illustrate how much of a blessing that is.

So in sum, it took alot of wrestling and growth to realize that God answers all your prayers (assuming they are in accordance with His will), but He does so His way. Further, His way is the way that has our best interests in mind. So if I've learned anything from this realization, is that not only does God answers prayers, but that if we feel like we have been constantly praying to God for something to no avail, then it probably means that our "prayer scope" is too small, and that when God answers it, He's going to do so in a way that 1) gives Him the glory and 2) goes over and above what we thought we wanted or needed. Until next time, speekonit...

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