Tonight I attended a celebration that served as a great exclamation mark to a lesson I'm learning about prayer and my God.
So often in my prayer life I am guilty of lacking persistence. I don't lack petitions. That doesn't ever seem to be a problem. But sometimes I desperately lack persistence. I haven't really been aware of this attitude until recently. There is a part of me that always read Jesus' admonition to the disciples "Oh ye of little faith" with just a touch of smugness. Surely I would have believed the impossible with Jesus around calling the shots. Ah, yes. The reality of my spiritual immaturity lies in the fact that Jesus is still calling the shots. I don't really have a valid excuse for doubting. And still at times I do. Just like the disciples.
For too long I have allowed my circumstances to decide when I was done praying for something, instead of trusting God and His Word. When things look impossible - that's when the prayer has been answered with a "no". Or at best a "not now". I was praying by sight and not by faith. Once things start looking impossible, I assumed God was done. And I stopped praying.
I read a great story in this fabulous book called "The Beginner's Guide to Intercession" by Dutch Sheets about a man who prayed for the salvation of a friend. God laid it on his heart, and this man was persistent in his prayer. Do you know how long he prayed for this friend? Over sixty years. The circumstances didn't change. The friend's heart didn't change. But neither did his prayers. And when this man died, his friend accepted Jesus while standing at the graveside. Can you imagine? Persevering in prayer for sixty years? In this age of immediacy, it sounds almost crazy. If I am honest, I would have to say I would have written that friend off around year 13 or 14. At best.
Then God laid something on my heart to pray about, and no matter how impossible the circumstances looked, I couldn't shake an almost incessant need to continue praying. I have to be honest - in my mind on my most optimistic days I still couldn't quite see how this prayer could possibly be answered - but God would not give me an out. I prayed, even though I doubted. I prayed even as I wrestled with what I was seeing. Lots of us did.
God proved to me (again!) that things aren't over until He has had His way. No matter what my eyes see. And when He tells me to persist in prayer no matter how impossible things look, it is not an exercise in futility. It is a lesson in faithfulness.
I just shared dinner with the most darling little baby girl in the world and her family and friends. Her name is Bella and she is a living, breathing "I told you I could still move mountains and bring water from a rock" answer to prayer. I imagine a day will come when I will look at her sweet face and think of something else besides God's faithfulness and answered prayers.
But then again, I hope not.