And how I made it back
I was furious at myself for being naive enough to believe God would actually reach down with some kind of cosmic hand and guide my car into a safe path, or actually manipulate my digestive system into rejecting unhealthy food, or force us into improving our Christian lives.
I had already decided I understood Ecclesiastes 9:11 and Matthew 5:44–45, but I was at least self-aware enough to know I needed to study more.
So I searched.
I found a few other scriptures in the New Testament that seemed to indicate prayer is intended for these specific things: thanking God (1 Thessalonians 5:17–18), seeking God (Matthew 7:7–8), or asking for spiritual strength for yourself or intercession for others (James 5:16).
Here are the scriptures I found and what they are addressing:
Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:17–18 (ESV)
-On the importance of giving thanks to God no matter what’s happening in your life.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 7:7–8 (ESV)
-On seeking God; life experience makes it clear you don’t get anything just because you ask for it.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
James 5:16 (ESV)
-On obtaining forgiveness for your own sins, or for the sins of others.
None of those things I can do for myself or with my own power, nor are they affected by “time and chance”.
This all seemed to confirm my new belief, and it affected my prayer life.
I prayed less, because I thought, whatever is going to happen is going to happen no matter what, so what’s the point? When I did pray, I started eliminating phrases like “help this food to” or “help us to”, because I thought He’s not going to change the caloric content of my food, and we’re going to do whatever we want to do; He’s not going to make us do anything.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 12:15 (ESV)
This line of thinking became firmly engrained in my head over the next few months.
In my mind I had it all figured out, and I stopped listening to advice and alternative views. My father-in-law, a preacher, tried to help me once. We were discussing how I was feeling and I told him, “I know it might not happen even if I pray for it. I can thank God when good things happen, because without Him I wouldn’t be here or able to enjoy those good things anyway.” My voice broke as I continued, “But why should I set myself up for disappointment by praying for something that might not happen?”
“Jesus knew he was going to be crucified, but He prayed that the ‘cup’ would be passed from Him anyway. It’s not about knowing God will grant your wish, but it’s about laying your cares at His feet.” I greatly respect my father-in-law. I would also come to realize he had been right. But right then, I did not really listen. I didn’t want to hear that yet.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.
Proverbs 21:2 (ESV)
That word “weighs” is defined by Strong as follows:
A primitive root; to balance, i.e. Measure out (by weight or dimension); figuratively, arrange, equalize, through the idea of levelling (ment. Estimate, test) — bear up, direct, be (un-)equal, mete, ponder, tell, weigh.
I held onto that attitude for over three years and deeply concerned my wife, father-in-law, and others who cared about me. But they patiently waited for me to work this out. Over time, the sting of my grief lessened. Time has a way of doing that, so I suppose that may have helped. But I think God was “weighing” my heart, too. I needed to be evened out. To be “equalized and levelled”
And God was also being patient with me.
Good sense wins favor, but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.
Proverbs 13:15 (ESV)
After three years, my attitude was taking a toll. I rarely prayed anymore. When I did, it was a public obligatory prayer, such as saying grace over a family meal, or when a pastor would ask me to lead a prayer in service. I told myself I had only adjusted what I pray for, but my attitude was such that I mostly stopped sincerely praying altogether.
The toxicity spread to other areas of my life, too.
I politely (or maybe not so politely) nodded as others tried to help or give me words of encouragement-and then ignored them. Shutting my wife out of my feelings began to chip away at our relationship. I was hurting her, and I was too selfish to acknowledge it.
My anger started to spill over too.
My temper was short. I said hateful things to my wife. Lost my temper at my kids. I was generally irritable and not fun for my family to be around. They walked on eggshells around me, and my wife felt very alone. Thinking back on it, I’m a little surprised I didn’t give up on Church, as I was really just kind of existing, and my Church involvement was hollow.
Coming next week in Part 3…
Only my wife and other very close family members knew about my state of mind and shaken faith. Honestly I am surprised they didn’t try to approach me about it more than they did, but they were trying to stay patient and simply pray for me…
Find Part 1 and see more of David’s work here.