Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February 7, 2012: (more) Thoughts on Prayer and Faith...


Things are good around here.  Ali is marching her way through kindergarten and absolutely yelling at me for not getting her 3rd and 4th installments of Ali's Art World online yet... LOL.  Fire that guy, I tell ya!  Julian is still the sweetest thing around.  Seems like he's biting himself more often and leaving marks!  Teething, anyone?  Good times.  He's trying to figure out the crawling thing... take your time, buddy... take your time.

This Saturday, Angelique and I are preaching at our church.  We are sharing our story of faith.  We are so honored to have this opportunity!  We spent a lot of time yesterday brainstorming how to put all of THIS into 15 minutes!  LOL.  First off, I shouldn't even open my mouth if we want to keep that brief! LOL.  Seriously, though, it is challenging to take our journey and re-tell the story in the specified time we get to the specified audience.  It's not like we have one stock story we tell the same way every time.  We really labor with it to make sure that we are reaching the audience we are in front of each and every time.

While we were talking about the different pillars of the talk, prayer really rose to the top.  Many of you have read my posts on prayer and faith before, so some of this may not sound new to you, but humor me... this is partially me working out my thoughts, but at the end, I'd REALLY like to hear from you on your own thoughts on the subject... we ARE a community, and I LOVE hearing about YOU, and I know that you enjoy hearing from each other as well.

Today, I had a patient in the infusion center that I treated as an inpatient over the Christmas holiday.  When I saw her then, the chaplain specifically wanted to me to work with her husband as she knew our journey with Bella and figured I could help him out with the struggles - particularly in faith - that he is having.  How generous is that?  This is the chaplain referring me for spiritual care!  I love my team at work.

Anyway, just as I was about to leave today, he started to open up to me.  I got the hint that he really needed to talk, so I stayed.  He just poured out his anger and frustration with God.  He's mad because he feels like God hasn't answered his prayers this time, and because he doesn't understand why God is letting his wife deteriorate, he's questioning his faith.

Can anyone else relate to that line of thinking at all?  It's incredibly honest, and even a little understandable...

...when you have accidentally tried to relate faith and understanding.

we figured out that his fundamental flaws were that he:

1.  thought he could or should be able to understand God's will all the time, and
2.  that he has tied his faith to that position.

The thinking went like, "I've prayed many times before, and (I thought) God answered my prayers.  Why won't he this time?  Maybe there's no one there after all."

For me, faith is not related in any way to understanding.  That's what makes it distinctly faith, and not knowledge.  I don't think I have the capacity to understand the enormity of God's plan as this tiny human I am.

I used to think I did.

Ah, the arrogance of youth.

I'm now at a point where I see that faith is related to trust, not understanding.  For me, it's like this... "God, I don't know if I'll ever have the capacity to understand what you understand, but you know what?  I'm stickin' with you, no matter WHAT the view looks like from down here.  No matter what, I TRUST that from where you sit, you are orchestrating a perfect story, and allowing perfection in all things.  I just can't see it from down here.  But you know what?  I don't really need to.  You got me, I trust you.  I'm IN."

However, I am still back to square one over prayer... prayer as petition... not conversation and communion.  Growing up, prayer first was obligatory praise and attention I had to give or I was going to hell.

That was a drag.  I didn't like that so much.

Then, prayer became a wish list.

Then, I got enlightened, and prayer became a gratitude list.

Then, when Bella was born, some well meaning supporters encouraged me to "pray for that miracle of healing."  I wasn't planning on it, but it was too seductive to resist.  Maybe, just maybe, if I either prayed hard enough, long enough, and "the RIGHT way," Bella would be healed of EB.

Then, prayer became me watching for signs that God was there.

Thus the book was written, Bella's Blessings: a Humble Story of Providence.  

I thought that because I could observe God's signs, that I knew God's mind.

Nope, that wasn't it, either.


Would someone just let me know how to pray (to get my way) already?  I'm tired of playing this game... I want the cheat codes! LOL.

So, here I sit.  39 years old, 30+ years into this praying thing, without a clue about prayer.

I love it.

It has been the most humbling experience of my spiritual journey.

Thank God.

There is so much more to God, prayer, and faith than meets the eye.

Life long learning, eh?

Has any of this resonated with you?  Where do you find yourself on your journey of prayer and faith?  Please comment!

God night.


  1. Hi Tim. This is a great post about faith and prayer and I will take it as a sign for me ... I'm going through the same process and questions at the moment. My husband lost his job three years ago and although we are ok for the moment, the future is uncertain... and I want to know God's plan for my family and me!!!!
    I read and reread many of your posts about this topic; I take notes and revise them . It helps a lot. God puts you and your blog on my way. I thank God for that and you.
    "Pray, hope and don't worry".

  2. hi Tim. I am new to your blog, and just found it through Courtney's blog. My name is Christiana, I am from Cyprus (I know, I know, where the hell is that? right? well, its a small island off the coast of Greece, in the Mediterannean sea). I have been reading your posts from the beginning, I am still a long way from reading all the posts, but I must say, YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION. Just like Courtney, your faith is truly inspiring. I am a mother of 2, and I have never, ever been so happy or grateful with my life. And I owe this to your story, and Tripp's story. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. So, about the prayer issue. I can totally relate to your patient's husband. Its the easiest thing to do when you are faced with such a potential loss. Blame it on God. That's what I did, and that's why you and Courtney are so inspiring. Its hard to keep trusting and believing when there is so much pain around you. So he needs time. And support because is easy to give up hope and faith. But I am sure you will do a great job inspiring him. Again, thanks Tim. You & Angi rock!
    Buying your book is on my to do list :)

  3. I can relate to each and every one of your stances on prayer. Your statement regarding faith being tied directly to trust and not understanding has opened my eyes to how I need to relate this to my husband. You see, he is struggling with his faith because he does not "understand" how God can let children suffer. Oh how enlightening you are, Tim. I think my prayer needs to be more for gratitude because it seems to be more of a wish list right now expecting results. Thank you for your blog, it always makes me think.

  4. Looking at the photo of Bella, I think she knows more than us, don't you?!
    I think you've learned well, and the hard way (for most of us, the only way), that we can't understand all of God. We don't see things the same way. No more than Julian sees things the way you do! But yet he trusts that you love him and are doing the right things for him. (even though he may protest at the moment!)
    We learn to love and trust God over time, more and more. Doesn't mean that it all looks well to us all the time, and doesn't mean we can't cry out our concerns and frustraitions to God. It's ok if Julian fusses to you, isn't it?!
    Prayer is way more than just one thing done one way......it is sharing our whole selves with God and wanting to hear from Him too. It can be "wish lists"----I imagine as a dad you have heard some of those.....it can be protests....it can be "I love yous"....it can be listening....Prayer is life together with God. :)

  5. Life long journey is right! I find myself in peaks and valleys of prayer. It is in the valleys when I am not praying often that I feel at my lowest and very lonely. Prayer for me is a conversation that has no filter, a conversation that I can only have with Him because I am not afraid of saying the wrong thing, being judged, sounding stupid or offending anyone. I am just being me with the One who knows me best.

  6. Oh wow...great stuff on prayer. God has been really teaching me a LOT in the past few years about prayer. The best definition I've ever heard is from Dallas Willard "Prayer is a conversation between me and God about what we are doing together."

    And that is what it really is. Yes, it's asking...that is the core premise of prayer. But it's an ongoing conversation. We must also be listening because that's half of a conversation (if not more!).

  7. Tim. I seem to be flooding you with comments today, But I have been thinking about your question the whole day and I have come to the conclusion that its easiest to be mad at God for not doing something, because this means that He CAN do something, which in turn leaves a window of hope open. If God wants to, then a miracle WILL HAPPEN. On the contrary, if you passively accept that this is God's will, and only He knows why, then you are in essence resigning to the state of things, and not really leaving that window of hope open. BUT, once you do accept that God knows best, like you and Courtney have, the acceptance comes with a peace of mind. I think people need to progress through the first stage of hoping and expecting which comes with misplaced anger rather than accepting. does that make sense?

  8. What an amazing gift to give FCCO. Your journey has taught me so much about prayer. It has made me strive for a better prayer life with God, but to also not beat myself up about it, if things aren't going just right. Your deep and abiding faith is an inspiration to all. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

  9. Tim, I am in a difficult place with "petitioning" prayer too. If God already knows what is going to happen, and I believe He does, then why does it matter if I pray for someone's surgery to go well or for my parents to have a safe trip somewhere? My prayer or the prayers of ten thousand people aren't going to "change God's mind" about doing something. I do believe that God can and does work miracles, and that He does act in our lives, but I don't think it's because "enough" people prayed or prayed in the "right" way. Because if that were the case, then the opposite could also be true, that something DIDN'T happen because not enough people prayed, or they did pray "well enough". And that doesn't fit with my understanding of our loving God. I accept that I can never understand why God acts at the times and places that He does, and along with that I just don't see that our human prayers influence His actions. We don't "control" God with our prayers, so what is the purpose of praying for specific events, like a good result from a biopsy or things like that? God already knows the outcome I hope I don't sound cynical, because I really am not, but I am definitely struggling in this aspect of prayer. Thank you for this post, it's good to hear the perspectives of other people who are on this journey with us.

  10. Wow - great post. I think it's a daily journey. Just today at our women's Bible study group I was sharing that so often, I feel like my prayers are just rapid-fire requests. It becomes more about me than about an intimate, two-way relationship with God. That can be dangerous. And I think it also leads us to the places where we ask "why didn't you answer my prayer, Lord?"

    Prayer isn't about getting the answers we hope for or expect - it's truly about a relationship with God, a conversation where we give Him glory and allow Him to work His plan (whatever that may be) through us. (And yes, I'm definitely preaching to myself here!)

    It's really hard, especially when we want to be able to see the plan, and have instant results. But faith can't be driven by what YOU want - otherwise it's not faith. Think about Courtney - certainly Tripp's path is not one that she planned for or wanted. But what INCREDIBLE faith she has - she knows that God's plan is perfect and He is in control, even now when things are so bleak for her.

    Sorry to get on the soapbox. At the end of the day, my prayer (ironically) is that my conversations with God would be real, and that my relationship with Him will grow deeper each day.

    Thanks again for the post! Love to the Ringgolds and tell that guy to hurry up with Ali's Art World already! :)

    Love from TX,
    Laura (for Team A)

  11. This post resonates with me on a very deep level. When I read about Bella and Tripp, I broke down and cried for days, I just did not understand why God would allow this to happen. My prayers at those times were focused on understanding, I couldn't come to terms with why this happened. My husband helped me realize that it is not for me to understand or come to terms with. I must have faith and trust in God's plan. It is so hard though, when I just want to see those precious angels back in the arms of their parents. I don't cry to God for understanding anymore. My prayers recently have been expressions of gratititude and my hopes of what His plan includes.

    I want to thank you for this blog and Bella's story, it is profound and so inspirational.

  12. Tim,

    I struggled a lot after Sarah came home from Stanford, when she was 6 weeks old. The in home nurse overdosed her the first day home (10X the amount) and when trying to get blood to see if her kidneys or liver were damaged from the over dose the phlebotimist took off all the skin on Sarah's hand, like a glove (ugh, makes me sick thinking about it). Being a newby at this EB thing, I didn't even have my extra bandage kit with me (total rookie mistake). I remember very distinctly that ride home I decided that was it, I couldn't believe that there was a God out there who would be this cruel to my baby girl, so then there couldn't be a God. I walked in our house, ready to become an atheist and Jay asks me if I wanted a blessing (like a prayer). I was actually mad at him for asking. I hadn't shared with him what had happened with Sarah's hand, so he didn't know how much she and I were suffering. It struck me very hard at that time that it wasn't a coincidence that he felt inspired that I needed that extra help from God. Same thing after she died (I sure wavier easily) I couldn't believe she died, EVERYTHING seemed to fall into place. It did, but not for what we thought the outcome was going to be. A wise man from our church came to visit us and said that believing is taking all those "coincidences" in our lives and realizing that they aren't coincidence, recognizing God's hand in it all. I have since been very vigilant in recognizing that it truly is HIS loving hand guiding us. I have siblings who are atheist and they won't even talk to me about Sarah's death because they are terrified of what being atheist means, for themselves and me-they won't face it. I've felt so much peace in our journey that I KNOW something greater than myself has a plan, greater than what I can understand, I just need to trust! I am working on it!

    Regarding prayer, I use to picture it as being at an interview...that wasn't any fun (who likes interviews, daily!) I decided that I wanted it better. I have struggled at time, but I just talk with Him, thank him and sometimes beg to know His will or have peace not knowing it.
    Whoa, I wasn't planning on writing so much! I guess it boils down to Faith is Good, God is Good!

  13. Love that post..I know a lot of times my prayers are like a wish..I am slowly learning to pray with gratitude and unselfishness..I find a reward in praying for others and not my own needs all the time..I learned south from Bella and how to care and pray for someone I didn't even know and I think in a way it has brought me closer to god..prayer is becoming a whole new meaning,prayer is not always about my needs:)

  14. I love this post! I have had some of the same thoughts and conversations. Last year found my family at one of our lowest points with 3 funerals in a 6 month period...2 of which were caused by cancer...each of which was diagnosed only 2 or 3 months before my aunts passed away. I also went through some personal struggles. After much prayer and petition and crying and screaming at God...He showed me Job. The verse that has become my life verse I think is Job 1:21 - whether the Lord gives or takes away blessed be the name of the Lord.

    I still don't think I have the definition of prayer, but I view it as a conversation. I just talk to God as I would to anyone else. I pour out my heart in good times and bad. I pray before bed. I pray in the shower. I pray in the middle of Wal Mart. When I finally realized that prayer didn't have to be this formal thing, I felt free to be totally honest with God. This means that sometimes I get angry and let Him know that. I've had people tell me that I "shouldn't be angry at God." My response? He's God, he made the emotion of anger, and He can handle it.

    My view is that God would rather have us be honest with Him, no matter what that brings, than to be all prim and proper and "righteous" all the time. Last year brought me to my knees, literally and figuratively. And my only hope was in God. And that lesson He showed me...to praise Him when He gives and when He takes away...and to trust that even though I don't often have a clue, He DOES know what He is doing and He DOES have a plan for each of us.

    I love to blog, too, and actually wrote one on this just a month ago. There's a Steven Curtis Chapman song off his album Beauty Will Rise. The whole CD is amazing! He wrote these songs after his daughter Maria was killed in a tragic accident. All the songs speak to me, but there is one called Faithful that says "I've dropped anchor in Your promises and I am holding on cause You are faithful....when You give, when You take away even then still Your name is faithful...and with everything inside of me I am choosing to believe You're faithful."

    Thank you so much for posting this and for sharing your honesty and your faith! God bless you and your precious family!

  15. God working yet again in others...showing Himself through other people, other experiences, other losses and gains. My dad, devout Catholic, always shared with my brother and I that prayer IS a conversation, an opening, a trust and love at it finest. Answered prayers and unanswered. I admire your understanding of how prayer has looked to you over the years. And for sharing with your self, your family, and with us how it changes. Lots of love to your little boy and your sweet girls!

  16. Prayer & faith.......so hard to put into words! When I pray, I simply give thanks for everything in my life, and pray for whatever it is I need inside me, to do God's will.

    There was a point in time that prayer was a wish list for me too.....but somewhere on this journey, the thought really took root that, God's will is beautiful....positive.....joyful..... even when the path doesn't look that way, ya know? I came to the understanding that if I really trust God with his plan, then I needed to shift my perspective from praying that God gives me what I want, to focusing on gratitude for what I GET. I've come to understand that I dont always recognize the gift-wrapping God uses for his blessings. There have been a lot of times, those blessings have shown up on my doorstep looking like a pile of crap.....but I just need to hang on. There have been many, MANY times I can look back years later, and see how that piece fit into the puzzle....how many things could not have happened, if events hadn't rolled out exactly as they did. I've found that many of my greatest blessings have been born out of my deepest pains.

  17. Hi Tim. Yesterday , here in Portugal, for the first time, there was a tv report about EB. Most of portuguese people never heard about this disease and this was a huge step. You can see the tv report here: http://tv1.rtp.pt/programas-rtp/index.php?p_id=25508&e_id&c_id=1&dif=tv
    Thnaks for continuing fighting for the cause. God Bless

    Sandra Coelho - Portugal

  18. A great post Tim;thanks! I agree with you that for me faith is related to trust more than understanding. These days when I can't figure things out, I let it rest with God and trust that someway, somehow it will be okay; and this seems to be working. I have a greater sense of well being and hopeful,confidence in the future.Not just for myself but for everyone.God Bless.

  19. I read the following today on Facebook. and thought it was a kind of bridge for Your last 2 posts-

    ‎"On reason there are so many unhappy Christians is they feel God should be doing them favors and heaping upon them material rewards and benefits, rather than working as a carpenter to shape their lives back into His own image." -- Jamie Buckingham, Risky Living, 1976

    We matter, so He is shaping us into the people He created us to be (as we yield to Him)Shaping us-with the folks He's put in our lives, by the circumstances in our lives, by the choices we make, etc... so shouldn't prayer be our conversations with Him about the whole process of being molded, shaped, loved by Him? Questions, concerns, elation, Love, anger,just chatting....

  20. I view prayer as a form of communication, and communication is imperative for a relationship. We must speak and we must listen when spoken too.

    Faith...you must trust before you can speak (reveal) and to me that goes hand in hand with prayer.

    Both of them have been a journey for me because I wanted to trust more in the tangible than the intangible, but as it turns out the intangible became more of the tangible, and the tangible became more of the intangible.

    Your post hits directly on the book "The Shack." I love that book!