I’m not a “personal journal” blogger, but occasionally I talk about my own life. Though readers may get the impression from my posts that I have all the answers—because I tend to write like I do—there are still many things in life I struggle with. This post is about one of those things. It’s also a call out to readers of Cerulean Sanctum to help me grow as a Christian by understanding something about prayer and life I just don’t get.
In the last few years, my family has been through a lot. We’ve perservered amid some incredibly tough times and I think my wife and I are stronger people for it. We truly learned how to trust God to provide for every need and realized how much we need the community of faith.
We have a comfortably-sized home on thirteen acres of rural Ohio land. Due to some of the struggles we’ve had since we moved in here, we haven’t done a lot of decorating or making it ours. In many ways it is the exact house that the previous owners left behind.
Given that we seem to be past some of the hardships, in the last few months we’ve done some fixing up of our kitchen, probably the one part of the house most in need of updating. The folks who lived here before us left behind major kitchen appliances that were older than the house; when we bought it, I knew the refrigerator, range, and dishwasher had to go.
After being here four years next month, we finally replaced all three with very nice Kenmore units. As the cook and stay-at-home parent, I’ve been ecstatic about these new appliances and extremely grateful that we were able to buy them. We gave the old appliances—they still worked—to a family in our church who could put them to good use.
Here’s where it gets odd for me.
When the new appliances showed up, I thanked God for them and prayed that, given their cost, we would not have any expenses come up that would hurt as a result of their purchase. Specifically, I prayed that we would be spared from two major expenses: hospital visits and emergency car servicing.
Well, within two weeks of this prayer, my son had to go to the hospital (and despite our insurance, we will still pay a lot for the visit) and my wife’s car starting stalling. Then came the check engine light. Yesterday, we forked over $1000 to have the fuel injectors replaced on what is only a five-year old Corolla. The coincidence of this—with a son who hasn’t seen the inside of a hospital since he was born and a car that’s run pretty much flawlessly—is just too much.
What troubles me is that I have a history of this kind of thing in my life. In fact, it occurs so regularly that I am tempted not to pray for (or against) certain things simply because I know that if I do, those very things are going to boomerang in a bad way. Prayers like, “Lord, keep me healthy so we can enjoy this weekend out of town,” (I get sick the day we leave), or “Please God, don’t let this client push up their due date right now because I’m slammed” (the two week due date suddenly becomes two days), or “Lord, I just managed to tighten our belts in such a way that I saved $100 off our monthly budget, thank you!” (and the next day we’re informed our insurance is going up—you guessed it—a $100 a month), seem to work against me far more often than not.
Now before someone tells me I should trust God and not give in to “fearful” prayers, I give you this:
…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)
That’s pretty much my operating verse here. That’s how I do it. I lay all those things before the Lord and move on.
So why so many outcomes like this?
I’ve been a Christian for almost thirty years, so I’ve got a pretty holistic perspective in general, but this kind of “prayer that goes awry” is one I’m not sure I get. Everything seems to be a bit too coincidental.
- Chalk it up to Satan, but then that seems to make him more powerful than God.
- Say it has to do something with sin in my own life, but if you know me, you’ll know I confess things so as not to be burdened by them.
- Say it’s just coincidence and that’s life, but it’s too coincidental for my liking.
- Claim I’m not praying in faith, but honestly, I certainly don’t want those things to happen—and isn’t the Philippians passage the cover here? If we start purposefully holding back requests, where does it end?
Am I the only one who experiences this sort of thing routinely? It’s weird to me and bothers my wife, too. Anyone out there with more wisdom is certainly welcome to shed some light on this for me. After this latest incident, I’m a bit cowed to even open my mouth for requests like this.
14 thoughts on “Boomerang Prayer?”
I don’t have any great wisdom and I won’t pretend I can relate my own experiences to yours. I don’t have a child. I imagine much of your anxiety is related to your son’s welfare.
My suggestion, in the most general sense, is to pray for discernment. Maybe God is doing something you need to be aware of before you pray. I mention it in a practical way, not that I am discerning something myself in your account. I find quite often I am praying for one thing, but God is asking me to pray for another. For example, I was recently desperately praying for a new job. It seemed logical and my career is primed for a move up. We really, really need the money. Instead, God was leading me to pray for the local church … and I’ve been given some kind of burden to assist it in some fashion yet to be understood by me. It now makes sense why seemingly opened doors were closed for me in the job hunt. Our financial position hasn’t changed, but I’m much less anxious about it.
God, bless Dan and his family. Meet their needs in abundance, keep them from harm, and blanket them in Your perfect peace. Amen!
Very, very, good question. Only God knows the answer. However, I do have a few thoughts.
First, there are many believers, in Churches and the blogsphere, who believe and teach the prosperity doctrine. If all you have done by writing this post is let your readers know that believers still struggle, you have made a positive difference.
Second, I think the verse from Philippians which you referenced really did have the answer. You prayed about an issue that made you anxious. You now know the outcome was not what you wanted, but the anxiety was unnecessary. What you didnï¿½t think you could handle, you were able to handle. In a way, your prayer was answered, even though your request was not.
Lastly, all of the prayers you listed are ï¿½make my life easierï¿½ prayers. Perhaps, you should throw in a few, ï¿½if it will make me more like you, take away my need or desire forï¿½ï¿½ prayers.
Thanks for this post. I also need to flip a switch in my prayer life. My prayers have been growing mold, and after your post, I know why.
I have to smile inside, reading this. (I hope you don’t mind.) It does help to know you’re not the only one with questions, who struggles. I do think, as an American, I’ve imbibed a lot of the local opinion that “suffering is a bad thing, and it’s out of the ordinary.” I sometimes harken back to Philip Yancey’s The Gift of Pain, when I realize I’m thinking that way. It does seem odd that your trials seem so directly aimed at your prayers. Maybe it’s some kind of test of faith. I don’t have answers, but appreciate reading this post.
I’m young with next to no answers, except what the Word of God tells us, but maybe ponder this:
“If you give it all to God, He is responsible for the consequences.”
I have had to live with this motto several times in my walk. I’ve needed money for one thing and then a $1000.00 medical bill would come along. Mostly I believe that God wants us to trust Him no matter what comes our way. If we die poor it doesn’t matter, we’ll be rich. 🙂
So all in all, I have had to come to grips with the fact that I don’t understand the why’s, can’t fathom the how’s, and scratch my head at the no’s. But oh how sweet does it make the, “I will’s”.
Matthew 8:2 and 3, “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”
Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound unfeeling, in my previous comment. I feel like we’ve been through quite a bit, too. Sometimes I just get tired of Christians making it sound like the Christian life is (supposed to be) easy.
But your situation does sound like an intellectually/emotionally difficult one.
I looked at your web site. You have a beautiful setting.
My prayers are with you. I read this article today and it may be of some help.
The verse that comes to mind for me is…”Godliness with contentment is great gain.” I believe God is teaching you to be content in all things. Patience and contenment are hard lessons. Of course you are thankful but are you content with “prayer that goes awry?”
It is my experience that this happens over and over again until all worldly ambition is gone and the need for more is dead. Thank you Jesus.
I am now 60 and after 28 years of ministry I clearly have seen the same pattern. The trick is to be happy anyway. Satisfied. But there is always the family that we want to bless. (I have 5 kids) I find it especially frustrating when I can’t “extra bless” them. But they are not complaining.
I syndicate your blog because you have a little more depth than most that are out there. You can be sure that God will develop that depth to its fullest.
He is faithful.
He wants to free you from stressing over money. Not by giving you more money, but by deepening your relationship with Him. Please forgive me if this comment is too presumtuous.
Blessings and agape,
Thanks to everyone who posted!
I hope no one thinks I am complaining here. If anything, I’m curious as to the dynamic that is happening. It’s the specificity of some of this that amazes me. It is one thing to pray that no bad thing will happen to you and a meteorite hits your house, and quite another to pray that a meteorite doesn’t hit your house, yet one does. Especially when it’s not a meteor shower time!
In his book The Latent Power of the Soul, Watchman Nee talks about praying out of the soul rather than out of the spirit. That concept struck me at the time as beeing too bizarre for me to grasp, but a little time on that reading has got me wondering if Nee isn’t on to something here. What if we Christians today confuse Spirit-led prayer with soul-led prayer? If there is a difference, how often might we run into the real thing in both camps to know the difference?
Just something to think about.
Man, it’s late. I’m going to bed!
last week I was teaching the 11-14s at church from the book of Job. Perhaps some verses from there (interpretted in the light of Yancey’s ‘The Bible Jesus Read’) would be relevant.
Why do bad things happen. – Job asks lots of questions, God doesn’t answer but he doesn’t tell Job off either.
Why do coincidences happen? Hmm tricky but I’m beginning to think that the one who made up the laws of chance and maths might have included them in the Universe for some purpose.
Sin in your own life. Nope. Bad things happen because the world is fallen. There is not yet perfect justice although in faith we hope for it.
All I can think is that in some way you are discerning the trials before they happen.
You are subject to “the lot of men,” as all people are. Elihu explained it in one of the most overlooked passages of the Bible, Job 33. Here’s a synopsis, followed by the text itself.
God does not have to give account of any particular action He takes to anybody. He purposes to teach each of His followers lessons that come from Him, but He plants these truths deeply into them and commits their lives to learn these things. He does this by His sovereign will for each person. And He does it to keep even good men humble, so that by struggling to understand one or two parts of God’s wisdom, men aren’t lifted up by pride.
He causes a person to go through calamity, illness, and suffering and even will cause a person to go to the brink of death, again and again, to teach that person that He is God and the person is a human being totally dependent on God.
Yet in this process, God is also teaching others to pray for those who suffer and intercede, reminding God that the person who has suffered is an upright person. God does here the prayers of intercessors. And God Himself is always ready to hear the prayers of the humble. He restores the people who suffer, and He enables them to be happy and to praise Him. This is how God enlightens people.
I will answer thee, that God is greater than man.
Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.
For God speaketh once, yea twice, [yet man] perceiveth it not.
In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;
Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,
That he may withdraw man [from his] purpose, and hide pride from man.
He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.
He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong [pain]:
So that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat.
His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones [that] were not seen stick out.
Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers.
If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness:
Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.
His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s: he shall return to the days of his youth:
He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him: and he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness.
He looketh upon men, and [if any] say, I have sinned, and perverted [that which was] right, and it profited me not;
He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.
Lo, all these [things] worketh God oftentimes with man,
To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.
It seems to me, that when things don’t go my way, and I look back on it after some time has passed, I can somehow see that it did go HIS way.
It’s hard to trust anyone with our heart’s desires, but if we can’t trust God, we can’t trust anybody. If we can’t trust anybody, then we should just give up “wanting” anything.
Here’s an article you might like. I found it to be helpful in some ways. It’s a little outside the mainstream, but maybe it will speak to you.
Well, I donï¿½t know if I can add any special wisdom to this, but I will just pass along my thoughts.
I think you have some of the answer to it in the very words you post:
ï¿½In the last few years, my family has been through a lot. We’ve persevered amid some incredibly tough times and I think my wife and I are stronger people for it. We truly learned how to trust God to provide for every need and realized how much we need the community of faith.ï¿½
Tough times. Perseverance. Became stronger. Learned to trust God for provision. Learned to appreciated your local community of faith.
If the Lord did not take you through these struggles and back out the other side, would you have learned any of the things you learned during these times of perseverance? If you didnï¿½t have these times to reflect back on and see how God met all your needs and then some, would you have the increased faith you have today?
You have a story to tell, and a witness to bear of your faith, that many people are finding encouraging, which is one of the reasons why we read your blog.
Also the answer to your question is yes, I think we all struggle with these types of questions. My recent struggle is my wife and I felt last summer that with a growing family of 4 kids, and a home that almost doubled in value in fours years, if we should look into cashing out the equity and look into building. We found a nearby subdivision that had some lots left over in Phase II that saved us $10,000 off the list price. Plus the lot was a walkout basement lot in the back which is what we wanted.
We prayed, made a pro/con lists and really believed that this was a good choice for our family and saw nothing from the Lord that would indicate not to proceed.
Since June of 2004 when we signed a contact for new house the following occurred:
ï¿½ Building should have been done in Jan/ Feb was not complete
ï¿½ Our current home did not sale as quickly as we thought it would
ï¿½ My wife got laid off from her part time job in February, not allowing us to show her income on mortgage app. which for a 2-3 week period made me believe there was no way we could continue with our plans (a job she had for 10 years)
ï¿½ In March current house sold to out of town buyers (we were elatedï¿½ a real answer to prayer) then 4 days later they walked from the agreement of sale.
ï¿½ Current house went back on the market and did not sell until May
During this time I really struggled as to want the Lord was trying to tell me. Was I in sin? Introspection leads me to believe no. Was the new house materialism? Again a look at our current house, 3 bed rooms with one being used as an office, a basement that is not able to be finished to gain more room, and any plans to expand would have included ripping off the current roof ect. With fours kids ages 6 through 18 months this was not an option. Besides once we would have attempted an addition, the mortgage at the current house would have been the same as the new house we were moving to, with none of the newer house benefits.
So why did all this happen? What was the Lord trying to tell me? I could not figure it out. On of the neat things I like about our the church we are attending now is when there is the ï¿½pastoral prayerï¿½ during the service, anyone felt lead to do so, can come up to the alter area, and kneel and pray and public ally take any special prayer concerns to the Lord. I whispered to my wife that I would like to do that and wanted to know if she would join me. I just prayed simply, ï¿½Lord back when we started this process we really felt your leading that this would be the best route for our family, but now, circumstantially at least, I certainly can build a case that this is not what you want. As I kneel here at this alter, I give to you the new house and all the hopes, dreams and plans we have had for it and give it to you. I donï¿½t need to have it, and if you donï¿½t want us to make this move please make it abundantly clear.ï¿½
After doing this I had a real peace about thingsï¿½ I felt a confirmation deep down inside that the Lord was saying, I am not saying no, I am just saying wait for My timing and keep trusting in Me. That same Sunday my Realtor had an open house. No, it didnï¿½t magically sell, because I publicly prayed about this concern. As a matter of fact we had those ï¿½people of interestï¿½ who just loved the house, but never loved it enough to write an offer, which drove me crazy.
So why did the Lord take me through this? I still donï¿½t *reallyï¿½ know. The only thing I was convicted of is this. I have not been tithing. I had a devotional where this verse hit me right between the eyes:
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curseï¿½the whole nation of youï¿½because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.
I spoke to my wife about this and said I donï¿½t know quite how I am going to do it, but we have not been tithing (we always have been giving, just not tithing) and I want to start. And we did. Did the Lord therefore solve my housing dilemma right awayï¿½. no.
However, a few weeks later someone came through who just loved the house, and backed it up with an acceptable offer, and now we are in the wonderful two week until closing pattern, where all the Tï¿½s are crossed and iï¿½s are dotted, but closing has not occurred yet..coming June 24thï¿½right smack in the middle of our pre-planed, pre-paid family trip to the beach;)
Now, Dan, if you post and tell us a meteorite hit your houseï¿½ all bets are off;)
Here’s the passage that came to mind when I read over your post:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ï¿½ 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV)
Maybe God’s been showing you that his grace is more sufficient than you give it credit for. I certainly know he often teaches me that… over, and over, and over…