When I was in high school, I ran cross country. It was the one sport I participated in all four years and I loved it. There's something about the experience of pushing your body to do something - sometimes beyond what you thought would be possible - and finding you can do it that is extremely gratifying. Add to that a group of people who are all mutually encouraging each other along the way, and in my mind, it's quite possibly the best sport out there.
There are quite a few lessons from running cross country that have stuck with me. One of those was what our coach would tell us about getting enough sleep before a race. As you can imagine, like any good coach, he wanted his team to be well rested so as that each of us could run the best possible race. But what I always found especially interesting was that he told us the night that REALLY counted was not the night before the race but rather two nights before.
(Well, actually it was either that getting a full night of sleep mattered or that loading up on carbs mattered. Or maybe both?) My memory is a little fuzzy on the details, but the point I remember is that somehow your chances of running your best race have to do with more than just what you do right before the race. It's kind of like you have to prepare further ahead than what you would think to get the best results.
Results matter to a lot of us I think. We want good results. If there is anything we can do to control the results of a certain thing and make them go a certain way, we are generally willing to do it. Put this spot remover on my shirt for a full 24 hours before I wash it and the stain will come out? I'm on it. Run a humidifier at night and my kids won't wake up coughing? Filling it up now.
Results are easier to measure or even see in some circumstances than others though. Think about prayer. How can we tell if our prayers are bringing about good results? What if it seems like they're not?
Some answers to prayer are fairly obvious. Maybe we're feeling overwhelmed and we pray for God to give us peace. Then we step outside, breathe in the fresh air, and realize our minds and hearts have become calm. Thank You Lord. Or maybe we have a child who can't sleep and we pray together for God to calm his mind and help him to sleep. Then after a few minutes, when we hear his steady deep breathing, we breathe our own prayer of thanks for the gift of sleep.
Other times, though, the results don't seem to work out at all. We pray for healing, and our loved one gets worse. We pray for sleep and find ourselves still awake at 2am. How do we make sense of these kinds of circumstances? It would be like getting a full 10 hours of sleep two nights before the race, another 8-9 hours the next night, and then still running a race with the slowest time you've ever run. Why didn't it work?
I remember once thinking that praying for others can in turn encourage and strengthen me, like helping me believe that if God can do it for them, He can do it for me. I thought perhaps this boosting of my faith is one of the good "byproducts" of praying for others. Maybe it is, at least sometimes.
There are many reasons why God directs us to pray for others, and one of them may well be because of the way it changes us. Another may be because in some mysterious way, praying for others changes them or their circumstances. James tells us "the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). He then writes about how Elijah prayed and essentially seemed to cause rain to start or stop over a period of years all because of how he prayed. Clearly prayer can bring about results!
The thing is, I might have a lot less control over the results of my prayers than I would like to think. Somewhere I heard that we have control over about 15% of what we think we control. Could it be that my part in prayer has very little to do with the perceived "results" of my prayers? I keep praying, not to guarantee certain results, but rather to be part of the process, no matter what the results are.
When I see good results, I celebrate and thank God for them. When the results don't seem good at all, I take a deep breath and trust God anyway. Life is messy, and the results themselves aren't reliable.
But God is.
May God help us to be faithful in prayer no matter what results we see or don't see. God sees it all, and He is the Gardener, the One who makes things grow or prunes them when they need to be pruned. May we keep on praying and leave the results in God's hands.
Pray with me...
... Lord, give us faith to believe in You and Your goodness even when it's hard to see it
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
... Father, let all those in the ACSD community and beyond be faithfully praying for each other
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people. 1 Timothy 2:1
... God, use all of us to encourage and build each other up as we pray
We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. Ephesians 4:15-16 (MSG)
Artwork by: Michelle Glick
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and pray for Alliance Christian School District! Lord willing, I plan to publish a new blog post weekly on Wednesdays throughout the school year. Feel free to subscribe (at the bottom of this page) if you'd like to be notified each time a new blog post has been published. We also have a prayer team that is always open for new pray-ers to join. If you'd like to learn more, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ Carrie Warner, ACSD Prayer Team Coordinator
Soli Deo Gloria To God alone be the glory