Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Prayer and dogs, Part 1 ...

When our first chocolate lab, Chessy, got old, she could barely make her way up and down the basement stairs.

Once she shuffled her way down the stairs, making her way back up became questionable. She lurched. She stumbled. She huffed and puffed her way back up to the main floor, but only barely.

Eventually, I realized that it was simply cruel to allow her to descend to the cool, concrete floors of the basement, even in the summer heat. The chance she would never reemerge without me attempting to lug her squirmy, 80-pound body up the stairs was too great.

So I shut the door.

She would walk over to the door to the basement numerous times a day and simply stand at the door, patiently, quietly, waiting for me to open it so that she could get cool.

But I refused. I did not open the door.

She would stand and wait. And eventually, after looking at me with confusion, she would shuffle off to a cooler part of the main floor and plop down with a heavy sigh of disappointment.

She had no idea I had shut the door for her own good. All she saw was the closed door.

One day, I found myself talking to her:

"Chessy, I know you want to go downstairs. And I know you don't understand why I am saying no to you. But if I let you go down the stairs, if I let you do what you think you want to do, you may never come back up. I love you too much to make you suffer in that manner. So, even though it seems mean to you right now, I am keeping that door closed. I know, better than you, what is best for you and you just have to trust me."

As I heard these words come out of my mouth, I wondered:

Does God ever whisper similar sentiments to me?

Do I ever stand in front of doors wondering why God allows them to remain closed?

Do I imagine the better life on the other side, frustrated that God won't do what I want God to do - simply open the door? 

And does God then whisper to me:

"Alice, even though it seems mean to you right now, I am keeping that door closed. I know, better than you, what is best for you and you just have to trust me."

I bet God does ...

Prayer and patience ...

God's timing is not ours.

Can we all agree on that?

So, when we pray, we wait. These two actions are inextricably linked.

But we are impatient people, aren't we?

We often interpret having to wait as God not answering our prayer.

I once heard that what God does in us while we wait is as important, if not MORE important, than what it is we are praying and waiting for.

Henri Nouwen would agree. Listen to what he wisely writes about patience:

"Being patient is difficult. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of a bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not waiting passively until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later, and somewhere else. Be patient and trust that the treasure you are looking for is hidden in the ground on which you stand."

As you pray and as you wait, can you at the same time live the current moment to the fullest?

Can you trust that God is at work behind the scenes of your life and therefore you are free to live each day as the gift it is, rather than thinking that "the real thing" will happen as soon as your prayer is answered; tomorrow rather than today?

I love Nouwen's last sentence - "Be patient and trust that the treasure you are looking for is hidden in the ground on which you stand."

Pray, friends! But as you do, understand patience will be asked of you. But patience isn't passivity. It is standing at attention, eyes wide open to all the answered prayers that are right in front of you, in this moment right now, hidden in the ground on which you stand.

God is too good ...

“God is too good to be unkind

and God is too wise to be mistaken.

So when we cannot trace God's hand,

we must trust God's heart.”

(Charles Spurgeon, 1834 - 1892)

Live carefree before God ...

When I am anxious about something or someone and my prayers feel like they are bouncing off the walls, I move my mind toward this passage from the Bible:

"Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you." (1 Peter 5:7 - The Message Translation)

How can I practice trusting that God is very careful with my life?

Once I start to rest in that truth, releasing the death grip on all I try to control through prayer becomes easier and easier.

What if prayer is more about releasing and less about demanding?