Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Janet Sketchley's Secrets and Lies

When Prayer Feels Risky
Guest post by Janet Sketchley

When I was little, I had two types of prayers. There was the mealtime-and-bedtime sort, where I rattled off a string of words in a comforting ritual that was a strange mix of security blanket and lucky charm.

Then there was the straight-from-the-heart sort, where I really talked to God – but only to tell Him what I wanted. And I had to include the exact details. What if He got it wrong?

A lot of calendars have come and gone since then, and I've learned that prayer isn't a superstitious chant. It's dialogue with our Heavenly Father, our Good Shepherd... our King. It's at least as much about reminding ourselves about His character as it is about pouring out our deeply-felt needs.

One of the hardest lessons for me was accepting that this God whom I can fully trust to work for good, and whose power hasn't faded since the Red Sea days may choose to allow pain despite my prayers. And I have to be okay with that, because as disciples said to Jesus when He wasn't doing things the way they expected, "Where else could we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68)

God has proven His love in the details of my life. I know He's real. I just have to let Him be God His way.

In my novel, Secrets and Lies, the heroine, Carol, is afraid to pray. She's endured an incredible amount of loss in her life, starting with her mother's death when Carol was in her pre-teens. Her mom came to faith in Jesus, and her dad turned abusive. Then her mom died in an accident. What good were Carol's prayers?

Growing up, Carol made a string of questionable choices, but a few years before the novel opens, life looked positive. Her husband's death left her free to raise their sons without his disruptive – and destructive – influence. She was alone, but she was strong. Until her younger son got into drugs.

Carol wasn't a Christian, but she had a friend who'd been healed of a brain tumour through prayer. The two women prayed together, desperate but confident. Carol's son, Keith, died. He was 12 years old.

The friend blamed Carol. Clearly, her faith wasn't strong enough.

So now, in the novel, when Carol and her surviving son, Paul, are in danger, when Paul's choices are taking him out of Carol's plan for his life, she's torn apart but she's afraid to pray. What if she gets God's attention, and Paul dies? What if her lack of faith means God can't help? What if He won't?

Those are similar to my earlier questions about God not shielding us from pain. And Carol doesn't know how trustworthy He is, or how much He loves us.

Carol needs to learn that God's heart longs to pick up the pieces of our lives and not leave us walking wounded and alone. That she can trust Him.

She also needs to let go of the fear that if He doesn't answer her way, it's her fault. The Bible shows that faith is key, and that a hard-hearted or doubt-filled refusal to believe inhibits what God will do, but the Apostle Paul himself experienced God's "no" in response to prayer. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Sometimes God says "no" – we may not see why on this side of Heaven, but if we trust His heart, we can wait that long.

What would you say to someone like Carol?