It has been sixty-one days since my fall and resulting pelvic break. The treatment for healing from this kind of break is minimal motion. I can get around with a walker [no weight on the right foot] but I spend countless hours on my behind and my back. Immobilization does not burn many calories. I have reached the point in my recovery that sleep is difficult because I have so little activity.
I have to reveal to you my common prayer on a long night, “God, I need to sleep.” I haven’t had a single night when God allowed me to sleep right after I prayed that simple pray. He allows me to sleep when He wants me to sleep.
Why don’t I get what I pray for?
Let’s turn to John 1 5:14-15 “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.”Bingham Hunter* says that “only prayer according to God’s will is granted.” This is the bottom line, yet many pastors who want to encourage people to have faith write about prayer and seem to forget it.
Why do I not get sleep immediately? God does not want me to have it.
Hunter makes a good argument about prayer when he references a chaplain in the army who questions why soldiers who pray for safety get killed anyway. His argument should appeal to the adult in all of us. If you ask God something, you must be willing to take what He gives. Too often we have childlike prayers that approach God like Santa. Just present Him with your wish list and you will get all your desires. He has a very important sentence to explain the proper attitude: “People must learn to want what they get.” I have to admit, I like a happy ending. Most of us do. However, I am not a “Pollyanna.” Sometimes the ending is not happy.
What do we get in answer to our prayers? We get what God in His infinite love and foreknowledge sees fit to give us.
The problems with always getting what we want are many. Many of us pray in conflict. A simple example is that I may pray for sun because I want to work in my garden, but my very tired neighbor may be praying for rain because he wants to sleep in after a hard week at work. We pray with a very shortsighted view. We don’t understand the long-term implications of what we are asking for and the long-term implications may be disastrous. We can be downright selfish with our prayers, asking for our immediate needs to be filled. Sometimes our culture influences us too much and we think we have to have something that society says we have to have. We don’t really need it.
These problems pale in comparison to the problem of vanity and pride that would follow from always getting our prayers answered. Can you imagine the arrogance that would develop in a person who got their wishes 100% of the time? They would have power. They would have influence. They would have some type of “magical” ability that they could lord over others and they would. C.S. Lewis describes this type of man: “His head would turn and his heart would be corrupted.”
The Bible has many examples of man praying for something that he thinks he has to have. Psalms 106:13-15 says “But they soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His counsel. In the desert they gave into their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So He gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease among them.”
Maybe if we think we can pray and guarantee results, we need to mature a little more in our Christian faith.
Children demand happy endings for every story. Should mature Christians?
The army chaplain referenced earlier admits in his writing that no one gets a break just because they pray. Soldiers who pray all the time get killed.
I don’t get the sleep I want no matter how much it would make me feel better.
Let’s turn to Mark 14:36 “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.”
Jesus teach us how to pray as a mature, adult Christian…and maybe then…
I can sleep.
*author of The God Who Hears