Sometimes, Instead of Bread, I Ask God for Stones

I have a battered notebook that has been with me for so long that four of its pages date back to the birth of each of my sons.  It is in this notebook that I write down the requests – big and small — that I bring to God.

Should our family take the adventure of a cross-country trip in a mini-van? 

Who gets my vote this time?

Lord, help our church family to find a shepherd.

Certainly, my notebook is a record of God’s faithfulness, but even after all these years, I don’t pretend to understand the pattern of scattered checkmarks – or the replies from God that they denote – for the notebook also chronicles my uneasy relationship with prayer.

At some point, it’s bound to happen to everyone who believingly follows the One who said “when you pray”:  the bubble of predictability is pricked and horror comes rushing in regardless of prayers to the contrary.  My notebook speaks into this tension.

  • Fervent prayer for a missionary friend with cancer – dead six weeks from diagnosis.
  • Focused supplication for a marriage to survive . . . and another . . . and another. All have dissolved, and are barely a memory now.

Even the Apostle Paul with his inside track to the third heaven never claimed to understand the ways of God.

Instead, he said, “I know whom I have believed,” (II Tim. 1:12).

Therefore, he took grace —  and the power of Christ —  as glorious consolation prizes that came instead of the healing for which he prayed three times, (II Cor. 12:8,9).

 

I have lived and moved through the steps to that dance:

“Oh, Lord, bring healing and wholeness to …”
“This opportunity sure looks perfect for …”

I ask and I invite others to join me in prayer. On some level, I am convinced that prayer is like a referendum in which the more people I have “voting” with me, the more likely it is that the will of God will sway in my direction.

It’s easy to slip into that thinking, isn’t it?

My thinking gets muddled, but this one thing is certain: God’s motives are above reproach. God has promised not to trick me with a stone when I’ve asked for bread or to scare me with a live snake on my plate when I’ve asked Him for a fish. (Matthew 7:9-11, MSG)

But is this evidence enough for me to be grateful for God’s gracious refusals? The truth is that, mistaking stones for bread and serpents for fish, I ask God for stones all the time. God wants to give me a fragrant and nourishing loaf, but I ask for the wrong things. I don’t see what God sees. This, then, is the point at which my faith is tested: When the loaf God offers looks like solid stone to me, will I trust Him and say, “Yes, Lord, I’ll take it?”

At this point, my theology, my personality, and even my writing style are all straining for closure. I yearn to talk about the shining path of God’s will that becomes ever brighter the more I walk upon it. I would love to share that I have learned the secret to the joy-in-spite-of-circumstances that comes with looking into the face of God. I see evidence for it in Scripture, and my mind knows that when I ask God for my daily bread, I come to God as a child, trusting that God knows better than I do what will encourage my health and lead to growth.

 

When a “no” from God feels like gravel in the teeth, I remember again that prayer is a mysterious partnership. I will not give up on it. My questions do not diminish my belief in the Promise and Mercy, the Forgiveness and Welcome that flow from a living relationship with the God of the Universe.

Words from an Orthodox morning prayer lend their strength to my frail asking:

“Lord, teach me to treat all that comes to me this day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that your will governs all.”

This learning sits heavy in the balance, countering my own vision, which is so often out of focus with God’s eye of wisdom.

When it comes to the deep wanting, to the “I won’t let you go unless you bless me” requests that keep me company at the kitchen sink and wake me up in the middle of the night, I’m trusting for grace to accept their outcome. Whatever their outcome, I am learning to see it as that day’s portion of my daily bread, knowing full well that, in my short-sightedness, I may be asking God for a stone.

//

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This piece first appeared at SheLoves Magazine.

 

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

36 thoughts on “Sometimes, Instead of Bread, I Ask God for Stones”

  1. Thank you for your honesty. Will we continue to persevere in faith and prayer, even when we don’t get the quick answers we seek? Will we trust? God is in control!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Michele, what a treasure trove of God’s work in your life through prayers that you have in your journal–even when some of those prayers were either unanswered or answered in a way contrary to your requests. I agree that it is difficult to understand God’s ways. It’s something I struggle with but always come back to the truth that God is good and God is a mystery that I’ll never fully understand in this life. I just must trust Him and His ways. Thanks for this inspiring word to us, my friend!

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  3. Ah, prayer. I bet that notebook speaks volumes. I bet there’s much it doesn’t tell too, though, the way prayer takes its own form outside of us and works in mysterious ways. Maybe we will see the hidden side of our prayers in heaven one day.

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  4. I, too, like recording prayers in a journal. Helps me to focus better, I think. I have totally struggled with the concept of prayer throughout my Christian life. I figure, though, if God didn’t even answer Jesus’ prayer to “let this cup pass from me,” then who am I to question if, how, and when God should answer my prayers! I have to admit, too, that some of my prayers probably don’t get answered because of what it addresses in James 4:3. Ouch.

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    1. We’re together on this, Brandi, and when we realize that prayer is a means of cooperating with God in achieving HIS purposes (rather than a means of directing God to accomplish MY purposes) we’re much closer to understanding the real essence of prayer.

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  5. Michele – I can so relate to your post and prayer too. I have journals from over the years, with requests, and I have seen God do some great and mighty thing, and then at the same time the no’s and the unanswered requests. What I do know is that God is a god Father, and His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts not ours… so I stand with Paul – I know in whom I believe and I suppose that’s the most important. We are neighbors at #womenwithintention today and also thank you for stopping by my place for a visit too.

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  6. I have seen the power of prayer manifest itself in my life Michele. The prayer requests that have come in via email, led me to write a book about the power of prayer. God never promised everything would be easy but he asks us to trust Him. God wants us to be dependent on Him, to desire communing with Him. He will grow our faith, grant us wisdom as we seek Him in prayer. There is always a reason for the unexpected answers but God knows what is best. He sees the complete picture. Thank you for always challenging us to think about our relationship with Jesus. May we never be afraid to speak with Him and trust His will. Blessings to you and yours.

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  7. I love this, Michele. Our prayers are not always answered the way we want, but is that going to cause us to not trust God when we pray? I hope not. Thanks for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.

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  8. Michele…I truly appreciate you sharing your thoughts on prayer. I too have a journal. It is so encouraging to remember (just like the Israelites did!) God’s faithfulness. I see his faithfulness even in the midst of the no’s. My heart aches with sadness and also gladness as I think of it. All of these things move me to pursue prayer more and more.

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    1. I love your reference to the Israelites — their stones of remembrance inspire me, and I”ve written the words “Two Quarts of Manna” inside the front cover on my journal, because the words remind me of God’s provision just as the Israelites were supposed to remember (Ex. 16-ish)

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  9. I get it totally. I have a long and complex history of prayer as well. For the longest time I didn’t pray much b/c of the things you said here… I mean, why pray and ask for things if God is going to do what He knows is best anyway. It just lead to such frustration… but I could never get past the admonition from scripture that says we are to pray and bring things to Him. so in the last few years, God has led me on a journey of prayer that isn’t primarily about asking for things, but resting in His presence, and realizing that prayer is the means by which we practically live in the awareness of God all the time. thanks!

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  10. I like to think that prayer changes ME, not God. I suffer from survivor’s guilt by proxy–why did Pedro survive cancer when so many other worthy people don’t? But the focus of my thoughts and prayers should be, ‘What do I do with the miracle?’ Prayer helps me figure that out.

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  11. Oh boy, am I struggling with this one right now. The ugly truth is facing me that I am acting like a spoiled toddler when God says ‘No’ to me. Ugh. Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday last week on Mommynificent.com! I sure needed to hear it.
    Tina

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