Second in a series of 2 paragraph posts on prayer. Find part 1 here.
My family loves to watch America’s Funniest Videos as part of our weekly wind-down ritual after church on Sundays. Recently, a winning video showed a girl and her brother breaking a wish bone. Each of them closed their eyes and made a wish then tugged. The girl won the larger half…then immediately burst into tears when she realized all she was holding was a turkey bone, and not the lollipop she’d wished for. Her disappointed tears (and her mom’s amused attempts to offer comfort) won her family the $10,000 prize. Anyone who has ever prayed understands this girl’s disappointment. Rarely do you close your eyes in prayer and open them to find the thing you asked for has already happened. It can be hard to keep praying with hope when your requests remain unresolved.
Prayer is less like making a wish and more like planting a garden. We take our cues from the farmer: “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient.” When I pray, I take all the things I hope will happen and give them to God. I plant them and entrust their growth to God. He can decide which things ought to thrive. I watch and wait to see which things will grow with great anticipation, rejoicing with every hint that the thing I’m hoping for is actually starting to grow. Praying with patience means watering those seeds day after day, weeding around them, watching with expectation for them to grow. We are called to be “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” So we keep asking, keep waiting, keep hoping. Spring always turns my eyes back out to my garden. Good things can and will grow if I plant them, but I also have a lot of work to do to make my garden a place where good things can grow. I have to be out there on my knees removing the weeds, faithfully working to do everything I can to give my good seeds space to grow. Prayer is a labor of faithful attention–it begins with asking for the things I want to see happen, but it leads me back to notice all the ways I can work while I’m waiting. So I fold my hands to ask, then unfold them again and ask “What can I do while I wait?”