The question was posed: "Why do you pray?"
It cut to my heart. I snapped to attention.
Why do I pray? What's the motivation behind my conversations with God? When I approach the throne of grace, what do I hope to find there?
I have struggled with prayer lately. I'm in a season of life where every prayer seems to go unanswered. I ask and seek and knock and beseech and beg and cry out and... nothing. Circumstances don't change. Doors stay closed. Hearts stay hard. Bodies go unhealed. Opportunities stay hidden. Bounty is withheld.
Sometimes, I doubt that prayer "works" at all. Do you?
Rumor has it that prayer changes things, that it moves the hand of God. But when so many prayers are answered with a "no" or "not yet," I begin to feel like I'm talking to a brick wall. I get disappointed and frustrated and wonder why my prayers are so ineffective. I follow hard after Jesus. I study His word. I listen for the Holy Spirit. I walk in obedience.
And I think to myself, "I deserve for this prayer to be answered, now."
So when the question was posed - "Why do you pray?" - I had to search my heart. If praying doesn't get me what I want, what's the point?
Then, this truth: Prayer is a place where we get to be in the presence of God.
I wonder... is that really why I pray? Is my heart oriented in such a way that when I come to God, all I really want is to be in His presence? I say that I just love to sit at the feet of my Savior. But... I am actually satisfied just with Him?
Could it be enough for me to be bathed in the presence of the living King - with no agenda, no demands, no requests, no urgency? Simply to come into his presence, and rest, and be full and content whether or not my mountains move. Could that really be enough for me?
I want it to be. I need it to be. I need to change the way I think about prayer, to lay aside my desperate expectations for new jobs and better health and sweeter kids and and and and. I want to learn to be satisfied with the gift of his presence, and nothing more.
It's okay to want answers from God. It's okay to ask for what we need and desire. In scripture we're instructed again and again to bring our burdens to Him in prayer. It's okay to keep coming back when a prayer seems unanswered. But we need to be careful when we think, "God never answers my prayers."
Because the truth is - he always answers. I forget, when I can't see the exact answer I want, that he always gives me what I need. His provision comes in so many ways. An encouraging word from a friend. A scripture. A song. A check. The comfort of his Spirit.
Even when all we seem to get is another trial, he still blesses us with fruit: "We rejoice in our sufferings, for we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope (Rom 5:3-4)."
When our prayer life is in step with His word - expectant and honest, making time to listen as well as speak, full of praise and gratitude - we will never, ever come away empty-handed.
How I need this perspective, that in Jesus is the solution to every problem, the hope for every sorrow, and the fulfillment of every promise. Not in what he chooses to do for me. Just in Him. His presence alone was more than enough for Mary. How I long for that to be true of me.