Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hear Me

Before diving into a new year for this blog, I should wrap up business from last year. There was a recurring theme last semester that I kept considering writing a blog on, and never knew how, so I kept holding back. But then I remembered that I never know how to write a blog. They just happen, if I sit down and ask for words.

Last semester I had a Computer Science teacher who was new to my University. He scared me at first, but I came to respect him. I tend to have incredibly awkward relationships with professors, so even the fact that he always made an effort to talk to me individually won him my trust. At my University, we almost always have devotionals and prayer to start off each class. I normally don't remember the devotions. Right now, I remember maybe three or four from all my other classes since I started college. But not so with Computer Science. I remember at least a dozen of the devotions that this professor gave. Maybe partly because they were so stripped down, so honest, so raw. Maybe because he mostly abandoned the Christian terminology and cliches that only ever serve to lose me. I don't know for certain, but I know that his words had a huge impact on me.

And one theme he brought up a lot was that of prayer. He stressed over and over again how we should pray when working on all our homework, and that we should then take that with us into whatever workplace we go to after college. You'd think this would be pretty simple stuff that everyone would do. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Most of the other students I've talked to don't do this, or if they do, they don't really take it seriously or expect it to work.

I didn't really expect it to work either, until I was already more than 3/4 of the way done with the semester. I had a huge paper due that I was going to have to present at my University's scholarly conference, and quite honestly, I was freaking out. Besides the fact that public speaking is a fate considerably worse than death, the paper had to be highly theoretical and analytical, and I had been given very little direction. I struggled and fought through the first three pages of a 6 - 8 page paper. I wasted precious days, until I had just a few left. Then one morning it randomly struck me that maybe this wasn't just a bad assignment. Maybe it was deeper than that. I thought back to my Computer Science professor, and I spent a while praying about it.

Less than 24 hours later, I had written another 5 pages on a paper that would later receive a very high grade, with little to no editing. By that point I was pretty much convinced that my Computer Science prof pretty much knew what he was talking about.

But school wasn't the only thing that I fought to pray about more, or the only area where the power of prayer was proved to me. Also in November, it came to my attention that I was somehow missing several hundred dollars. To say this hit hard would be a major understatement. I like to think I'm not terribly materialistic, but I try to work hard, and I have a lot of things to pay for. Suddenly I was faced with having no money for insurance and books and school fees. I worried about it a lot, for several weeks. I had no idea where to begin to fix it.

Eventually I mentioned it to my dear friend Liz and asked for prayer. Later that night, she responded and said she was praying, and that she believed very strongly that the money would be found. Around 5 minutes later, my mother checked an account she almost never uses, and found my money there. Beyond being an incredible blessing, it was also a moment of coming face-to-face with how big prayer can be.

The final thread to weave in is one that goes back farther. This summer, we found out we'd be going to Nashville for a family reunion in late December. I informed my good friend Rivus, who lives in Tennessee, in hopes that we could meet up. He told me that he'd be out of state then, so there was no way it would work. I gave up on the matter, labeling it as impossible.

In November, as I was seeing all these things about prayer, I was also feeling rather like my Christmas Break would be meaningless and lonely. Then I randomly felt nudged to pray that I would get to see Rivus while we were in Nashville. It seemed strange to pray for an impossibility, but the thought wouldn't leave, so I prayed about it. I continued to do so as the semester went on and ended, even though I still considered it to be impossible.

We found out that we'd be staying a day later than intended in Nashville, instead of going a day early. My older sister was flying straight from there to move to Africa, and the best available ticket was on December 31st (the day we originally planned to drive home).

Long story short, on Christmas Eve I talked to Rivus, and it turned out that he and his father would be coming down and driving through Nashville on their way home, on the 31st. And they would be hitting Nashville at about dinner time-- perfect for meeting up somewhere for an hour or two.

I was somewhat in awe. In a few days "impossible" had become "see you in a week." But God had a few other cool things He wanted to do even after that.

Turns out our hotel was literally just a few hundred yards from the highway Rivus and his dad would be on-- it was 2 or 3 miles after they'd normally turn onto another highway, but basically this meant they'd barely have to go out of their way at all to find us. In addition to that, in the corner between this highway and the street our hotel was facing was a Panera Bread. For the CleanPlacers reading, I don't need to explain why that's significant. For others, let me explain: Panera is the legendary home of countless CleanPlace gatherings, due to its awesome food and free wi-fi. I have spent many, many hours in a Panera in Colorado with dear friends. This was the final Artist's touch on the masterpiece.

We never could have met if my sister's plane ticket had been for just a day earlier, or if Rivus's drive had been just an hour or two longer or shorter. We would have had a lot less time together, except that the hotel was in the perfect place.

As I have said before, I absolutely love those moments when I say "I can't" and God smiles, sits back, and says "watch this."

I'm not sure where I ever got this idea that God only listens to certain requests, or that He only cares about what we have to say some of the time. More and more I've come to understand that He loves the sound of my voice. We have the Creator of the Universe as our own personal Councilor-- that is pretty epic, if you ask me. And the crazy thing is, He even cares about things like papers for conferences and lost money and meeting with friends in Nashville. Even though He doesn't always answer in the way we might want or as soon as we might expect, when His children cry out, God hears.

And it had nothing to do with praying in the "right way" or in the "right place." As a child, the church had me totally confused on prayer. It seemed like it was a list of things to check off. Was I in the right place? Was I praying for enough missionaries? Was I using the right words? How did I even address God anyway? I can't pretend to give a "right way," even now. But I do know that God's a lot less concerned with the words than He is with the attitude behind it and our openness to Him. I also have found out something incredible over the past few months: the closer we grow to God, and the more we come to know His character and the sound of His voice, the easier it is to know what and how to pray. On my best days, everything I pray for is something He's specifically laid on my heart and given me words for, not something I feel like I "should" talk to Him about. I hope and pray that I can grow into a place where most days are like that.

So, all of these rambling threads to say: don't be afraid to talk to Him. Even when all you can say is "I feel too distant to know how to talk to You right now." He listens. Always. And you'll be amazed by the way He answers. I know I am.

Happy January, and God bless!
- Elraen -


Phantom-Tree said...

i loved the blog!! and i agree with the stuff you said about prayer.

Blire Daeriel said...

I snuck back online to read this, and I'm glad I did. God uses you so very often to speak to my heart, and this was just one more instance. Thank you for opening your heart again and letting him use you. =)

WildWeazel said...

heya! I'm just a random passerby wasting time on the internet when I shouldn't be. I was clicking through some searches for common profile items (I think we share "Disciple") and noticed your sweet Skillet shirt. You seem like a pretty cool person with a pretty cool blog, so I just thought I'd say hi.

Anonymous said...

That was beautiful. Prayer is definitely a powerful thing. *hugs* You know, this may sound crazy, but I pray best at night, laying in bed, with my eyes open, just talking to God, and not worrying about the rest. :) Thank you so much for sharing! -- Angel

Liz said...

you're SO right about prayer. you know, i've been VERY inspired by you this semester with prayer. it's something that i've struggled with for a long time, as i'm sure you can understand, putting words to feelings and voicing pain and not just pain but joy as well. there have been times where i've just wanted to curl up in my bed and blare some music and shut the world out but you encourage me, "When I talk to Him about you, it's like I get this longing-- He WILL love you, and He WILL give you life again." and then I'm inspired to talk to Him and stop carrying everything myself. It was very enjoyable to read this blog and see the amazing things God's done this year for you =) it's even more amazing to be a small part of them. Love you♥♥♥