Friday, August 06, 2010

Praying Backwards

In February 2007 my husband and I got on a plane to begin our biggest adventure (so far): checking out his chosen seminary and finding a place to live. A new home.

As always I had a few books in my carry-on bag. We both always overpack on books. I didn't have much time to read on the trip; it was a whirlwind of looking at houses, getting lost, wondering if we were crazy, and trying to enjoy ourselves just a little bit.

On the plane home, though, my head was spinning. There was so much to decide. One decision in particular was plaguing me. We had looked at several houses and had pretty much decided on one. It wasn't our dream house, but it had some of the things we wanted: a large-ish back yard, enough bedrooms for all plus an office for the seminarian, a quiet neighborhood close to the seminary. But there was another house... a very charming, old house with plenty of bedrooms (for office space and company) and a charming front porch (everyone knows I covet a front porch) with a swing, and... a really good price. It also had the tiniest back yard ever, and rooms too small for our furniture. And no driveway. Street parking on a narrow, car-filled street.

Did I mention the yard? My kids had been living on almost two acres, mostly free to roam (except to the creek). And I was going to make them live in a place with almost no yard?

This charming little house was owned by a recent seminary graduate who was leaving to pursue further education elsewhere. He was motivated. We wouldn't need a realtor. He really wanted - needed! - to sell the house.

But I didn't want it. Even with that sweet front porch, I just didn't want that house. And I felt really bad about it. Because it seemed as though that house was being handed to us. I felt like God was saying "here is your house." But how could I be sure I was hearing right?

I couldn't relax my mind to pray without being distracted. So I decided to try to read a book I'd owned for a while but never really got into: Praying Backwards by Bryan Chappel. I distractedly starting flipping through it and landed on the chapter titled "Praying in God's Will." Specifically, the section titled "Trusting His Guidance."

But what if God's word does not address the specific concern of our prayer? There are no Bible verses that say take Job A or Job B... We often ask God to guide us between alternatives that seem equally righteous. If no options clearly oppose Scripture, how do we determine God's will?
Christians usurp the Bible's authority when they force varying moral values onto legitimate options the Lord provides. The mistake may occur in a conscientious attempt to obey God. A person may reason, "I do not know what to do. I have these two options, but I can only pick one. Since only one of the options can be God's will, the other must be wrong." then the person resolves to pray for God to reveal the "right" option with the assumption the wrong alternative will put him outside the
will of God. But assigning moral status to matters not condemned or approved in Scripture creates more spiritual problems.
As I read on, I was filled with relief. We could pick the house we felt was best for our family. And we did. Despite the worn-out little kitchen and lack of front porch, we knew it was the right choice. This was further confirmed when we got our dog, who needs the large yard even more than the kids do.

After that I went back to the beginning and read the entire book and have read it a few times since. Of course I have a particular fondness for that one chapter.

As it happens I ended up visiting that other house many times. After we moved here and settled in, we met the family who had moved into the house. (Coincidence? No.) So the house did not stay vacant. It hadn't been up to us to take it over! As I struggled to park my car on the narrow street, as I sat in the tiny living room on the delicate sofa (comfortable, but 2/3 the size of ours), as I overlooked that little back yard, I was filled with gratitude that we had not chosen that house.

This book will help to revitalize your prayer life and help you to focus your prayers on glorifying God, not fulfilling your personal desires. It will help answer the question "why doesn't God answer all our prayers?"

It may even help you decide between two houses!

1 comment:

Kerri said...

I'll have to find that book. I have been so praying about this stuff. So often I have agonized over decisions wondering if the choices I make reveal some wrong motive hidden in my heart or stupidity...