When my daughter was little, she and I would play hide and seek. I would not stop looking for her until I found her, but sometimes when I didn’t think she was ready to be found I would remain silent until she called out “Ready!” Only then, would I “find” her to her delight. Unknown to my child, I always knew where she was and I was ready to come to her aid — even when she thought she couldn’t be found.
When I was most lost and I felt estranged from God, I used to pray to God for stronger faith –but it didn’t seem like He knew I was there. I really struggled. Sometimes I wondered if there really were a God. I feared that if there were a God and He were listening to my prayers that He might never answer them. And I almost gave up trying to connect with Him again. Doubt, an exaggerated sense of self that hadn’t worked out for me so well, a past that humiliated me, and shame were my biggest hurtles.
But then I read Luke 11:8-10, giving me hope — and reminding me of God’s fatherly love. What Jesus said there to His disciples inspired me to take a leap of faith, trust in God’s love and forgiveness again, and continue praying. I don’t know what moved me to read the passage just then, but in hindsight I believe it was Christ intervening on my behalf. The Scripture to which I refer is this:
Jesus was speaking to His disciples: “Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this illustration: ‘Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You would shout up to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit and I’ve got nothing to give him to eat.” He would call down from his bedroom, ‘Please don’t ask me to get up. The door is locked for the night and we are all in bed. I just can’t help you this time.’ ‘But I’ll tell you this – though he won’t do it as a friend, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you everything you want – just because of your persistence. And so it is with prayer – keep on asking and you will keep on getting; keep on looking and you will keep on finding; knock and the door will be opened. Everyone who asks, receives; all who seek, find; and the door is opened to everyone who knocks.” Luke 11:8-10
Luke 11:8-10 strengthened my hope that I was not lost. That God heard me. Instead of giving up, I searched harder. I began reading Scripture daily and attending Bible-based classes at my church. I doubled – no, tripled – no, quadrupled – the frequency and intensity of my prayers. I prayed to God in the name of Jesus, appealing to Jesus’ promise that God will answer our prayers if we are persistent enough. I prayed that God would give me stronger faith in Him, help erase my worldly skepticism and doubts, and help me make God and Christ a priority again. I asked God to send me the Holy Spirit to guide me. My prayers were clumsy, incomplete, not eloquent at all, but I took comfort in having read that God knows our hearts and our needs — and in knowing that my prayers were sincere and heartfelt.
I didn’t blame God for not answering my prayers sooner. I had ignored God for a very long time. I had sensed that Christ was with me, but I had ignored Him for years. I had focused on material success, acceptance by unbelievers, and listened to skeptics so long that my spiritual senses had dulled. I had tried to apply worldly solutions to spiritual challenges. I hadn’t really prayed or reached out to God for years — I had only recited memorized prayers out of habit, without really engaging in the moment or thinking about the words. It was rare that I had spontaneously thanked God for anything. I was so independent, reliant on myself, and on “auto-pilot.”
When I began praying again, my prayers were selfish; they were motivated by a spiritual crisis: I was desperately in need of faith, I was spiritually impoverished, and I was spiritually dying — or perhaps already spiritually dead. In truth, I worried that I had waited too long to reach out. I definitely didn’t deserve Christ’s intervention, but I realized I needed God’s help and wanted it desperately. And so I kept asking for God’s help, through Jesus. Actually, pleading would be a better word – begging really. And just as Jesus promised He would, God answered.
God doesn’t always give us the answer we desire, but He gives us what we need in order to do His will. In my case, He gave me both: What I desired and what I needed.
That was three years ago. In His mercy, He blessed me. I am closer to God and Jesus than I have ever been. I realize now that Christ had never left me. Just as I had waited when I played “hide and seek” with my daughter years ago, my Heavenly Father was waiting for me to call “Ready!” He was waiting for me to want to be found.
God answered my prayers. In abundance and beyond my expectations. The prayers of a sinner.
I continue to pray — even more now than ever before. I continue to ask of God. I continue to seek Him. I continue to knock at His door. And I have faith that, as before, my prayers will continue to be answered. As before, I am prepared to accept whatever answer God gives me for above all else, I pray that His will be done. But now, this time, when I pray I know that I am not alone — that I am not lost. That Christ is always with me.
Photo by Alina Demidenko