Why you shouldn’t pray like I did

“Oh! I have a house to sell, too! I’ll pray for the woman who’s going to buy it, just like you did! And then it will sell!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this. While I hope that my “praying upside down” story inspires others, this kind of conversation makes me squirm. When I ...

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“Oh! I have a house to sell, too! I’ll pray for the woman who’s going to buy it, just like you did! And then it will sell!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this. While I hope that my “praying upside down” story inspires others, this kind of conversation makes me squirm.

When I started praying that way, it didn’t feel like my idea. I believe God placed the idea into my mind. It happened during a time of prayer—I told God I was scared and didn’t know what I’d do if this went on much longer, and I got an instant thought-reply: Pray for the woman who will buy this house.

Like so often when God seems to speak, it was simple, direct, and not exactly logical. Over time, I discovered layer after layer to it. That I was to pray for her, not them. That things in her life had to line up before she’d be ready. I slowly discovered that praying this way helped me to understand that I was part of something else. That it took the focus off of my needs and made me more like Christ (although still far, far from coming close to Him). That praying this way and learning to care about her made it possible for Tim and I to be more generous when in the end we lost money in order to close the deal. After the house sold and I met Rosanne, the buyer formerly known as “that woman,” I learned that there were so many things that God did during that time.

Layer upon layer. God was faithful in the way He worked out the situation. He answered my prayers, and He answered Rosanne’s prayers, too. I love telling this story. (A side note: Having the story published in my first book answered yet another prayer.)

But here’s the problem with it all. I can’t promise God will answer you the same way He answered me.

I am sure He will answer. I am not sure when (it might be a very long time, or it might happen before I finish typing this sentence). I am not sure how He will answer (yes, no, maybe, not now). I am not sure what lessons He might want you to learn in the process, what people He wants to become part of your life, what decisions you will have to make, what sacrifices you will feel the need to offer. Although I believe God will be right there with you, I can’t even promise that you will see, hear, or feel Him.

So by all means, yes, pray for the woman who might someday buy your house. But, also, go to God with honesty. Be real. And spend some time listening. Maybe this is exactly what God wants you to pray, but maybe He has something else in mind for you. Something different—and yet better, because it is perfectly meant for you.

That’s why I get uncomfortable. It’s not wrong to see my story as a lesson and pray the way I did. But I am just afraid that people will see it as a magical answer, a formula. If I do this, then God will do that. But it really doesn’t work that way at all.

He is the reason this all worked. He is the reason I prayed the way I did.

The only credit I’ll take for everything that happened is this: I listened.

I don’t want to discourage you; instead, what I hope this post will do is encourage you to go back to God. To ask for your own, personal answer. To seek His direction. To ask Him what He wants you to do.

And then? Do it. Don’t second-guess yourself. Don’t apologize or make up excuses. Don’t wonder if you’re crazy for thinking you heard God. And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hear from Him.

Pray, and listen.

Pray, and put one foot in front of the other.

Pray, and ask God how to please Him.

Pray, and thank Him for His goodness.

Pray, and ask God to strengthen your faith.

Pray. And wait. Trust Him, and believe Him when He responds.

And know that, whatever comes, God is in it. Know that, however large the obstacle, God can overcome it. Know that, however long you have to wait, God knows what He is doing.

Allow yourself to believe that He has something in store for you.Perfectly tailored to fit your needs. The right size, the right solution, the right timing.

And allow Him to do His thing. Whatever it looks like, however it sounds.

Because God is the one who turned my prayers upside down. And the One who made everything right. He is the One who came up with the crazy solution, and He is the one who enacted it. He gave me hope, and He provided the hope.

And He is the One who will do the exact same thing for you.

Only thing is, it may look completely different.


Tell me—What are you struggling with right now? Leave a comment and rest assured that I will pray for you.

Thank God for the hail!

When your roots are dry and the rains won’t come and then they finally come too late — how God still managed to show up. Join me at the Internet Café today to find out how a hail storm became a huge answer to prayer....

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When your roots are dry and the rains won’t come and then they finally come too late — how God still managed to show up. Join me at the Internet Café today to find out how a hail storm became a huge answer to prayer.

Connecting the dots

In school, I always liked a challenge. I rolled my eyes when something seemed too easy. Like those connect-the-dots worksheets that were so obvious. Take this one, for example: In my youthful snobbery, I’d turn up my nose. Roll my eyes. D-uh. It’s a heart. What’s the point? You’re wasting my time, I’d think. It’s no ...

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In school, I always liked a challenge. I rolled my eyes when something seemed too easy. Like those connect-the-dots worksheets that were so obvious. Take this one, for example:

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In my youthful snobbery, I’d turn up my nose. Roll my eyes. D-uh. It’s a heart. What’s the point? You’re wasting my time, I’d think. It’s no fun when it’s too easy.

Now, I long for those days, for the time when everything seemed so clear. I find myself wondering: What’s grief supposed to look like, and how long is it supposed to last? What do I have to do to look like — no, be — a good mom? A good wife? The pictures are no longer so clear cut.

And, in prayer — how do I know when God answers? How can I be sure the answer I think I hear is from God? Oh, for the days of clear-cut worksheets. For no hesitation, for no doubt.

When I feel my faith wavering, it’s usually because I haven’t heard from God lately. In fact, I probably have; I just didn’t pay attention. Seeing God in the middle of messy or confusing situations requires a willingness to accept that God can say or do or answer any way He wants — and trust that He will.

For years, I’d had a doubt that I had never spoken aloud, a very specific question about a particular aspect of a spiritual gift. I finally prayed about it, asking God to let me understand. One of the great things about my friend Peggy is we can veer from a conversation about the totally superficial to the deeply spiritual without missing a beat. Did you see the shoes that girl has on? Oh, and what does the Bible say about this? So one day at lunch, Peggy and I had a great conversation about shopping at Target and spiritual gifts (easy to confuse the two). I thought that was the end of it.

A week or so earlier a Facebook friend posted a quote from a minister I’d never heard of, and I decided to subscribe to his blog. While I was at lunch with Peggy, his latest podcast was delivered to my inbox, and its title was the question I had just asked her. The podcast was a ten-minute discussion on all the nuances and different aspects of my question, providing clear answers that made sense to me and satisfied my wondering. I sat watching it, tears pouring down my face. God heard me. And He answered me.

Connecting the dots

So many times, we miss our answers because we aren’t expecting them to come in that particular form. We might expect to find them in the random verse we open our Bible to — and, although sometimes we do, many times we don’t. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we experience that immediate “knowingness,” that certainty reverberating within, that accompanies divine answers. But the answers can come in so many ways and so many forms. The devotional you read this morning. A quote posted by a friend on Facebook. Song lyrics you’ve never noticed before. Seemingly random acts of kindness, seeing an acquaintance in the grocery store who has just the right thing to say, not even knowing you needed to hear it. It could be a rebate check that arrives in the mail the same day an unexpected expense puts your bank account in the negative. Or it might be doors closing, one after another, because this time God’s answer is no (or not yet).

One of my favorite things about serving God is the excitement of anticipating the unexpected. It’s drawing one line segment after another, watching the image slowly take shape and begin to emerge. It’s the understanding that the dots are part of the end result, but unless we travel from point A to B to C to D (or 4 to 5, or sometimes .75 to 4.998), the picture won’t be able to take shape. And it’s the gasp of surprise — and the rush of gratitude — when we see a glimpse of the holy. When God’s purpose or His method or simply His presence is revealed. When He emerges, and we see we were never alone after all. When we see clearly once again.

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