Have you prayed today?
On days like today, when our country’s presidency hangs in the balance, many of us would answer “yes” to that question. And it’s fair to say, that people from all of the political parties are hoping for a favorable outcome.
Which brings me to my point: prayers are like seeds. You can choose the perfect variety and scatter them just right, but something happens between the planting and the harvesting, between the sending and the receiving that we do not control.
If you plant a tomato seed, you expect a tomato plant to sprout. That's natural law. A verifiable reality that makes the universe seem predictable, controllable…comfortable. Just like in Algebra class, when we learned that if A + B = C; then C – B = A, we often want this formula to work in all aspects of our life. We want to know the answers! But it doesn’t always work that way, does it?
What we learn in the garden is that seeds of the parent plant contain the genetics of that parent but also those of the pollinating plant. In other words seeds are a hybrid. To get a predictable result you must combine C + C= C. For the most part, and especially in commercially harvested seeds and plants, there is care taken in this process so that probable results are achieved.
For the home gardener however, the Roma tomato plant you grow may be “cross” pollinated (by wind or bees) by your Beefsteak tomatoes and the seeds will then create a new variety. Next year’s crop grown from those seeds can be a combination “Romasteak.”
(To be clear, cross-pollination is inner-variety, not inner-species. And, except in the case of corn, this does not affect your current crop, only the seed. But “wow,” this is evolutionary!)
I’m only starting to save my seeds and don’t have any hybrid results to report, yet this concept of cross pollination speaks to my prayer efforts, too. I want it to be predictable as in A (my desires) = C (the outcome). And that has certainly happened on occasion, but as I got to thinking about the prayers that don’t “turn out” the way I had asked, I realize that B (God’s will) is essentially a cross pollinator.
Now, I’m more of an “English” than a “Math” mind, but stay with me here. In my prayer life I already know what outcome I want. And so I pray for it. Take for instance, “Lord, heal my friend.” While I may tag on the words “Your will be done” as Jesus taught His disciples to pray and many of us learn to add along the way, in effect this type of prayer is like putting something on a wish list: A (my desire: Lord Heal My Friend)= C (the outcome: Healing for my friend) – B (God’s will).
A = C – B (Wishlist)
While these prayers sometimes feel as though they are “working,” very often they eventually disappoint. No matter how earnestly I pray, there’s no denying, people get sick, people die.
Another problem with this kind of prayer is that it feels more like hitting the lottery or getting lucky. Whether our prayer is “answered” and the outcome is favorable may influence what we believe about B (God’s will). If you have ever prayed for someone to get well and they didn’t, you know what I mean. It challenges what we think of God. Some people walk away at this point.
Yet if we continue to allow ourselves to have an open heart, this is the point that we develop a new prayer paradigm: C (the outcome) = A (my desire) + B (God’s will). This hybrid prayer goes from telling God what I want to happen to asking him to “cross pollinate” my desire with His will. The more I experience His faithfulness and goodness, the easier it is to pray like this. The more I pray like this, the easier it is to experience his faithfulness and goodness. This kind of prayer grows our faith.
C = A + B (Hybrid)
Yet there is another level to prayer – the leap of faith. And this is what I believe we must practice on days like today – the days we can’t possibly control the outcome.
B (God’s will) = C (the outcome) – A (my desire).
B = C – A (Leap of faith)
Applying this formula sets a new dynamic in play – one that Jesus modeled for us. It doesn’t mean I don’t pray my desires and ask for a favorable outcome, but ultimately I lay down the right to tell God what to do. We read in the gospels that on the night before Jesus went to the cross, he was praying in the garden of Gethsamane: “Father, take this cup from me.” Had he stopped there this would have been the A = C – B type of prayer. And had he just gone on to say: “Help me get through this without being ashamed, mocked and killed” it would have been the A + B = C prayer. But he didn’t stop there. He submitted his desire: “Yet not my will but Yours be done.”
The outcome of this prayer is true “Cross” pollination and brings with it the power of God to raise the dead, to move mountains, to perform miracles and change the course of history. We need this kind of power today! Let’s pray.