How often do you clandestinely wonder whether your prayers are being heard by God? Pastors and priests extol the intrinsic worth of communing with the Almighty Father, but don’t you ever question whether they truly know what they’re talking about? And, wouldn’t prayer seem far more credible if we could dash off a note and send it to God’s email address or fax number? In a pinch, even a snail mail address would suffice.
“Hello Father,” my letter would read. “I’ve been run off my feet and haven’t checked in with you. Have you had a chance to follow up my memo about my being thirty-three years old and still single? Don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions. If possible, can something be done about my nightmare of a job? Thanks for your help. Cheers, Sabina. CC: Jesus.”
I wonder if God has ever considered auto reply: “Thank you for your prayer. I’ll get back to you ASAP. Have a great day.”
With all due respect to the Creator, He certainly hasn’t made it easy to be a believer, has He? As an intelligent if somewhat cynical adult, I have to question the basis of my faith in God. When in prayer, I’m often filled with a sensation of peace and comfort so intense that I’m frequently brought to tears, but what tangible evidence do I have that God exists? He’s never stopped by for coffee and He’s not listed on my speed dial or address book. I suspect the masses would be more inclined to believe in God if He’d permit an interview with 20/20 to respond to the numerous “hellfire and brimstone” articles about Him that appear regularly in supermarket tabloids. We’re people who walk by sight, so until God shows us the money, how can we know with all certainty that He exists? When discussing my philosophical beliefs with friends they often inquire with genuine perplexity, “Sabina, how do you know there’s a God?” I always have the same reply. “I’m standing here, aren’t I?”
I’ve always prided myself in being able to bounce back from whatever life throws at me, but on one spring evening three years ago, I hit a wall that I thought I’d never recover from. Earlier that day, I’d come home to find that my boyfriend of five years had cleaned out our apartment and left without a word. I was devastated. When I saw the empty hangers in the closet, something in my mind snapped like a broken bone. After years of tolerating lies and laziness, the man I’d loved without reserve had simply walked away. I have vague recollections of being taken to a hospital where I spent the evening locked in a room, sobbing, while a security guard sat stalwartly outside the door to make sure I didn’t make a break for it. All in all - not a great night.
There was no doubt that I had to make some changes in my life. One of the terms of my release from the hospital was attending counseling sessions, and I was true to my word and saw a psychiatrist. I abandoned the apartment I’d shared with my boyfriend and bought a pretty, one bedroom condo a few blocks away, feigning happiness to assuage the concerns of my family and friends.
Everyone thought I was on the road to recovery. I was getting medical help for depression and outwardly it appeared that I was moving on with my life, but what no one knew was that I was spending my evenings curled up on the couch, sobbing and praying for the strength to keep going. I felt desolate. I was simply plodding through life without direction and without the belief that my lot would improve, and that someday I’d be able to relinquish the often overwhelming sense of failure that was crushing me. I’d worked tirelessly to support my boyfriend both emotionally and financially, but my best efforts hadn’t been good enough.
Compounding my problems was a burning fury directed at the Lord. How could the God I loved and trusted let me come to this? Many people, including my own parents, had warned me that my boyfriend was shiftless, but I’d believed that it was my Christian duty to not abandon him because he had problems. The irony of becoming the abandonee instead if the abandoner was more than I could bear, and there were times when I’d believed that God too had turned His back on me. I’d often stamped my feet and shook my fist at the heavens because I blamed God for my pain. It took hard work and sincere prayer to finally feel that I had my feet back under me, and I’m relieved and profoundly thankful to say that I have my life together.
As much as I trust that the Lord considers my happiness and wellbeing important, I’m frustrated by the perceived stumbling blocks in my way. Like many Christians, I search for meaning in the challenges I face. What is He trying to teach me by keeping me single when I long to be married with a family of my own? Is there a lesson to be learned from working for a man who I believe is a classic sadist? I’ve laid flat on my face and prayed with all my heart for God’s help, yet I’m still stuck in what I consider a mess. Why can’t God just give me a clear message of what He wants from me?
Then again, the bible is full of people who have posed questions to God and received answers tantamount to IQ quizzes. My personal favourite is when Moses asks God whom shall he say sent him to lead Israel out of bondage. “I am who I am. That is what you are to say to the Israelites. ‘I am’ has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14)
Now, let me be clear. I’m not criticizing God in any way. As far as I’m concerned, He’s the boss, but how can I expect a straight answer from Him when even Moses is left scratching his head after asking God a question?
Surprisingly, the answer is relatively simple. It’s not a response that shoots down from heaven as a bolt of lightning, and if you’re waiting to come across a burning bush while out for your evening stroll, I suggest that you don’t hold your breath. The answer is insane in its simplicity and once I discovered it, I could have kicked myself for not realizing it sooner.
I found my answer in the strangest of places. I was being herded along a busy street with a flock of other commuters thundering toward the rush hour trains. It had been the latest in a long line of bad days and tears were burning in my eyes. Truthfully, I wanted to throw myself on the sidewalk and pound my fists at the injustices of my life. Rather than embarrassing myself by throwing a temper tantrum, I found a seat in the waiting area and took a few steadying breaths. I tried to force my misery into submission by reminding myself that I’d committed my life to God’s will and that no employer, no matter how evil, could make me break my vow to serve the Lord.
It was then that I felt something. The message came as a sensation, but if I had to put it into words they would be, “Please don’t worry. Everything will be alright.” The Doubting Thomas in me immediately wondered if I’d developed schizophrenia, but never in my life have I experienced true comfort while trying to assure myself that all was well. A feeling of calmness washed over me and I felt relief from the worry that had plagued me for weeks. There was a moment of apprehension as I wondered if my mind was conjuring up words I wanted to hear, but the doubts quickly ebbed away on a tide of utter peace and I realized why this feeling had eluded me for so long. I was complaining so loudly that I couldn’t hear the comforting whisper of the Holy Spirit. My own bellyaching was drowning out the message from God that I was longing for.
Who would have thought that the solution was as simple as not whining? My thoughts were so full of impatience and anger that I simply wasn’t listening for God’s answer to my prayers. Since there is no such thing as call waiting in the spiritual realm, you have to make sure that you’re available to hear from God when He sends His word. If I’d just sat still for a moment and listened when God was speaking to me, perhaps I wouldn’t have suffered as much.
Even God’s past work has suddenly begun to make sense. I can finally see that He had a purpose for allowing my ex-boyfriend to leave me. I wholeheartedly believe that the Lord saw me in a situation that wasn’t to His liking and intervened to save His child. Although I suffered terribly during that period of my life, He sustained me even when my angry diatribes were directed at Him. I know He has forgiven me for the accusations I made against Him and I have no doubt that He saw every bitter tear. His forgiveness was contingent on my sincere prayer and believe me, never in my life have I prayed so earnestly. His answer may have not been the answer I wanted, but it was what He thought best for me.
So, I advise you to go ahead and compose a message to God. Pour out your anger about the boss who makes you miserable, pray for your healing or for the strength to endure any trial you may face. Forget about grammar and typos. Your honest, heartfelt prayer in itself is a phone call, fax or email to the Father. What He cares about is knowing that you love Him enough to share the joys and sorrows of your life with Him. Hit the send button and wait for a reply. The response may be delayed due to volume during the NHL playoffs or when the lotto jackpot hits 20 million, but God is never out of the office. Until the Lord utilizes instant messaging, we’re going to have to wait for Him to reply in His own way and in His own time. I reiterate that the answer may not be the one you’d prayed for, but I guarantee that He will answer you. Trust in His wisdom and believe that He knows what’s best. The trick to communicating with the Lord is clearing away your emotional spam and watching for His message in your Inbox.