About fifteen years ago my mother died. She fought cancer with more dignity than I can describe. My mother was pretty cool, and maybe we’ll talk more about her sometime, you and I. But for now, I will only be able to give you a pencil sketch of her, because I really want to talk to you about prayer.
Mom was an only child, and a highly intelligent person. She realized very early in life that relationships are important and also that she might have to work harder to cultivate them than someone with siblings. That hard work produced a unique quality: when my mom sat with you, she was fully present. Sound simple? Try it sometime.
Because she worked hard at it, she made many close friendships over her lifetime. When she became sick, there was a revolving door at our house of visitors and casseroles and cards. Lots of cards.
As she was clearly an awesome person, and as both of her children were loving Jesus, we assumed of course that she would get the miracle. Right up to the end, emaciated, without hair, jaundiced, on so much pain medicine she couldn’t speak, we still assumed we were getting the miracle because we would know what to do with it! We would shout from the mountains of Gods healing power and His great love and proclaim the TESTIMONY of healing. We were ready.
Then she died.
We had rattled the gates of heaven for our mom. She was on so many prayer chains I can’t even tell you how far that reached. So when she died, I got to thinking, what’s the deal? Well, let me try to capture my feelings a little better: WHAT’S THE DEAL?????? I wanted to know,
if God is just going to do what He’s going to do anyway, why do we pray?
This question would not loosen its grip on me. Please understand this was not a crisis of faith. I recognized then, as I do now, that God is sovereign, and His decisions are best, painful as they may be for me. It was only through His grace that I got through that time. My first child was only five months old when my mom died, my marriage was not in good shape, and I felt so lost in every way without her. I know God sustained me through that and I am so thankful for His mercy and grace even now as I write with tears for my mom.
Still, though. What’s the deal with prayer, right? Does it matter?
So I read lots of books and I read the Bible (all these verses and more) and I asked God to show me. Then I got mad at Him when I couldn’t figure it out (and I was also ticked at Him about the mom snatching thing). For three years I felt like Jacob wrestling with God over this. Another time I will also talk to you about the value of obedience in a season like that, but again, back burner in favor of this prayer conversation.
About three years after she died I was sitting on my back porch on a sunny afternoon while my husband Greg worked in his garden. Back then it was a really big garden, about 2000 square feet. On this day, I had my second child in my arms, maybe about 6 months old. That would make my first daughter about 3. That’s how I know I was unpacking this prayer thing for three years. We girls were just chilling while Greg was working in the garden. I can still see that day so clearly in my mind’s eye.
Let’s talk for a minute about the garden. Go with me, it all comes together I promise.
First, Greg would design the garden, deciding what to grow and figuring out where all the plants need to be in relation to each other and to the sun. As they grow, taller plants could potentially block the sun from the little guys and you don’t want that. Each row is tilled and mounded in a very straight line. Greg used a horizontal plumb line between two stakes to keep the rows and the seed holes totally straight. Each row was meticulously scrutinized with a tape measure for accurate and appropriate distance between plants in that row and between the rows themselves. Pretty precise stuff, but not necessarily obvious to the casual observer.
Of course, as three year olds do, my daughter ran over and asked to help. And of course, as great dads do, Greg said yes. They worked together, and he bent down low to show her the right way to do things, or held her up in his arms to see the whole garden. He would put just the right seeds in her hands for the right places. He showed her how to walk between the rows carefully and to be sure not to bump the seedlings and knock them over, and be sure not to pick anything before it was ripe. And I was sitting there, on my patio, with a sweet baby on my lap, not contemplating theology in any way, just resting and being quiet. Finally God could show me what He wanted me to see.
God and I are the Father and the daughter in the garden.
I look up to Him and say ‘Can I help?’ and He says ‘Of course you can.’ Then He shows me just what seeds to plant, just where to plant them and when to pick them. If I listen to Him, if I stay right next to my big strong Daddy, sometimes He will lift me up and show me a little glimpse of the whole garden that I can’t see from down here. Even though He shows me the way to walk carefully, sometimes I bump a plant and knock it over. He lovingly fixes it, tends to it and makes sure it’s ok. If I reach for something that’s not quite ripe, He may gently take my hand away and tell me to wait.
In the end, just like in Greg’s garden, God’s plan will be done. Greg showed my daughter what goes where because he knows better than a three year old. But because she helped him, she felt ownership in the garden. She would say ‘mommy, we have to go out to my garden’ and when the time came for picking, she felt such joy that she ‘grew that.’
Our God loves to spend time with us and build relationship with us and He wants us to feel the joy of the kingdom. We pray because He loves us that much, to invite us imperfect little toddlers into His perfectly planned garden and let us get dirt under our nails and on our little noses and in our curly pigtails. His will is best, and it SHOULD be done. But we can have the most amazing time with Him getting there.
Please don’t miss out on the blessing that is prayer. There’s nothing the enemy would love more than for us to think prayer doesn’t matter. Don’t let him do that to you. Don’t miss the time and intimacy with our Savior who loves us enough to die on a cross. All the times when things get scary or sad or feel out of my control, whether inside or outside of my home, I need the intimacy of prayer to deepen my trust and faith.
Of course, you never know when the miracle WILL come. Since my renewed faith in prayer, I have seen cancer miraculously disappear, marriages restored (including my own) and the unbelievable harvest that can come from my willingness to pray boldly in belief of GOD who lives and rules and loves us.
…loves us more than we can imagine, even more than mom.
And thank you mom. For teaching me still.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. -2 Chronicles 7:14
For the entire Bible study series on prayer, click here. This series digs into several important sections of the Bible that inform our prayer lives and our understanding of prayer in general.
Holly Lazzaro is part of a weekly radio program and podcast called “Study With Friends,” a unique format of 4-5 different women each week, gathering around the Bible to study God’s Word. With organic conversation and authentic personalities, it’s a fresh offering on the Christian airwaves. For more information or to listen to the program, visit our bible study page.