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One of those weeks

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I’d had one of those weeks. Most weeks feel like “those” weeks these days. Is that how you feel too?

Given my season in life, the week in question included parental issues on both sides. My kids were giving me the mid-summer gears, and my mom was facing health issues I was seeking to address from a distance. We also had some financial stuff to work through and some big decisions to process. It was all more than enough for one week.

We were praying lots and not enough. Let’s be honest: we may pray lots about the stuff of “those” weeks, but sometimes we don’t really pray enough, as in stilling ourselves into the space where we know he is God and then engaging from that place of rest. No, we – or maybe it’s just I – tend to throw up lots of prayers like darts at a board, hoping to high heaven that one hits even close to bull’s eye. Such is life in “those” weeks. 

Sunday morning rolled around, and I stumbled into a conversation with a friend. He was having one of those weeks too. He’d been working way too much, he was exhausted, his wife was exasperated. He was missing his family and needing – desperately – a day of rest. Out of the goodness of his heart, however, he’d offered to help a guy lay some tile when the time was right and, of course, this was the day. 

His Sunday afternoon was now going to be spent laying tile. He was conflicted and weary. Doing good and doing well are not always the same thing. We chatted it through, and I said, “Let’s pray your friend will cancel.” We joined the church in worship, and as I sang, I prayed for my friend and his need for respite. 

When our communal worship ended, he marched up to me holding his phone. His flooring friend had sent a text: “It’s not going to work today.” We both smiled. Our faith grew. 

In this very simple thing, God was at work, delighting in us, caring for us. Two exhausted men could smile from our depths during one of “those” weeks.

I turned to pondering: why does God seem to routinely answer the small things while leaving the big things to linger – even fester? How is it that I pray for my friend and he gets an afternoon free, while bigger issues like the financial weight of our unsold house and the brokenness of our family’s journey appear untouched and unresolved? If I were God, I’d deal with the big things.

But, of course, I am not God. I am human, and male, and just beyond forty, and weary, and prone to wander, and requiring salvation and longing to be faithful. I am stuck in my story and needing a ray of hope and, even more importantly, the transformation of my character and renewal of my soul.  

This brought me back to God’s answers and non-answers in “those” weeks. The answer to my friend’s simple request was really about building our faith. In that joyous realization that God is real and active, we learned again to trust our Father in heaven. God’s answers build our capacity to trust. 

Conversely, God’s apparent non-answers, delayed answers or ambiguous answers are meant to transform my character. After all, it’s the stuff in “those” weeks that reveals where I need the Spirit’s power, where I need to repent and what I need to unlearn or relearn to craft, as Eugene H. Peterson says, “a long obedience in the same direction.” It’s God’s non-answers in “those” weeks that shape our most important development.  

If God answered too quickly in “those” things, I know what I’d do: I’d relate to him like a child on Santa’s knee. Instead, as I wait, I walk beside him as a child with a loving Father: to bring him the glory he deserves and welcome him to create in me what I really need for all “those” weeks that lie ahead. 

Phil-Wagler—Phil Wagler perseveres in prayer in Surrey, B.C., where he serves with Gracepoint Community Church.

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Dale Neufeld September 18, 2014 - 10:46

I’m sorry, but do you really expect us to believe that God messed up someone else’s life because you prayed that your friend could have the afternoon off? Does that mean that if something bad happens to me, it’s possibly because someone else is praying that something good will happen to them or someone else, and God’s way of making that happen is to mess with me? It makes God seem like a school yard prankster.

If there really is a loving God that can intervene in human affairs, why does he let so many horrible things happen without lifting a finger? Other than Bible stories, can you name one single time where God has stepped in to help people in trouble?

And how can we be expected to love or respect an omnipotent God who will sit back and watch someone be beheaded, even though millions of people are praying for Him to step in and save the day, but at the same time will tinker with people’s schedules so someone can have a leisurely afternoon.

It feels to me that “I’ll pray for you” has become the great Christian cop-out. If things work out, it’s an answer to prayer. If they don’t, well it’s not on me, it is God’s will.

I’m glad your friend got the afternoon off that he needed, but wouldn’t a better way of handling it have been for him to call his buddy and say it just doesn’t work for me – I’m all played out – rather than hoping God would step in and mess up the other guy’s day.

It’s time for all of us to realize that praying is just thinking, and thinking doesn’t do anything, other than maybe making the thinker feel better about themselves.


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