Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Praying in Whose Interest?

"For we do not know how to pray as we should..." Romans 8:26

Two children, two boys, two precious lives poised on the brink.
In the wake of Ben's death, my heart has been heavy as I ponder Marko and Gergely -- two little boys at the Miskolc orphanage with severe health issues.

The same week that Ben passed into the arms of his Savior, Marko underwent heart surgery.  And for a while, he wavered on the razor edge. We did not know if he would wake up. And in that moment, in the midst of the ache, I found it hard to see these two situations (Ben's passing and Marko's crisis) laid side by side.  

We were not created for death. It is a result of the fall.  And hence, we are ill equipped to deal with it. I guess that's why it hurts so much to lose someone you love, especially when they "go home early" as Ben did.

That's the way it is supposed to be.  It is supposed to full of ache and loss, that sense of emptiness and shattered dreams -- a future we imagined that will never be. 

But for an orphan child like Marko, there are no parents to fall asleep at his bedside, no one to ask all the right questions of the doctors. There's no one to create dreams for his future, and no one to mourn if those dreams shall never be.

Marko is doing as well as he could under the circumstances right now the doctors say.  But his condition is dire.  And unless God chooses to do a miracle, his life will be abbreviated.

And then there's Gergely.  He's about 8 or 9 but his body is the size and shape of a three or four year old.  I don't know exactly what his illness is, but I do know he will likely never reach adulthood.  And who will mourn him?

So how do we pray for such children? Shall we pray for miraculous healing? To what end?

For I have now seen several generations of kids grow up in the orphanage, and quite honestly, very few make it in the world.  Without parents to guide them and instill values in them, a harsh future awaits. It is as if they are set up to fail, poised for bad choices. Organized crime lies in wait to snare them. So much pain and hardship. I ache at the thought of it.

So then we should pray for miracle upon miracle, right? That God would not only heal these boys but also provide families, against all odds! For we are people of faith, right?

I have seen God work his wonders within the walls of that orphanage.  I've seen the unlikely placement of older kids into homes and even multiple sibling sets into families: situations that even the orphanage director called a miracle.  But I also understand that a miracle, by its very definition, does not happen everyday. Miracles would not be miracles if they were commonplace.

When we were praying for Ben, it all seemed so clear.  We would pray for miraculous healing, of course.  For Ben had the potential for an incredible future.  And yet, in doing so we now see that we were not necessarily praying according to God's interests, but rather according to our own emotions and sympathies.

So I come to the place of Romans 8:26, realizing I do not know how to pray. In fact, I tend to approach prayer all wrong.  Oswald Chambers explored the issue eloquently:

"We do not identify ourselves with God’s interests and concerns for others, and we get irritated with Him. Yet we are always ready with our own ideas, and our intercession becomes only the glorification of our own natural sympathies. We have to realize that the identification of Jesus with sin means a radical change of all of our sympathies and interests. Vicarious intercession means that we deliberately substitute God’s interests in others for our natural sympathy with them." 

But I don't usually bother with substituting God's interests for my own.  I'd rather pretend like my prayers are some sort of control mechanism I can wield at will. I want to be the author of people's life stories in my prayers. I want to tell God how work things together for good.  And let me tell you, I've given God a whole lot of advice over the years. And when He didn't take it I've tended throw temper tantrums, accusing Him of not answering my prayers.  What a spiritual brat I've been!

So how do I properly pray for Marko and Gergely?

I guess, I pray that God would accomplish his good plan in them. And because I know God enjoys our conversations, I can still tell Him that I'd love to see them healed and in  homes with families that love them.  But I also have to acknowledge it is not my place to dictate what God should do.  I know I do not see the big picture, and I do not know how their precious lives weave into the elaborate tapestry that is His plan for the world.  But I do believe they have a part in that tapestry.

And if God decides to take them home early, even though there will be no masses to mourn them and no parents to ache the loss, I will ache and mourn them.  But I will also know, that those who knew no father will at that moment know a father's love face to face.

Maybe learning to pray according to God's interests is what praying by the Spirit is all about.  It is giving up our own ideas, our own control and surrendering one more area of our life to Him.