by Laura Jones
A few years back, a mom of high schoolers told me that most mornings she would sit with her children and have a group quiet time before school started. Just thinking about the logistics of that seemed overwhelming! My kids were little and only one could read- let alone, sit still and allow others to concentrate on their quiet time. In theory, though, I loved the idea, and we decided to start small with group prayer after breakfast. Asking the kids to help create our morning prayer lists, I began keeping a record in my planner of each day’s petitions. Over time this practice has become a fixture in our morning routine. There are days when family prayer does not happen because, well… life happens. But most days, it is how we wrap up breakfast and move into school time.
An unintended fruit from morning prayer time is that we have a written record of the varied requests we have brought to the Lord for the last couple of school years. The other day, the older ones and I were talking about these lists. We noticed that recently our prayers have been filled with wildly different requests. Pleas for miraculous healing have been juxtaposed with praises for unexpected pregnancies and healthy births. Our prayer requests have been filled with the stories of painfully hard illnesses or the sweet joys of unexpected blessings. There have not been a lot of “normal” prayer requests lately.
As we added another name to our list of close friends battling cancer last week, I could see it in my kids’ faces: “Why?” Some friends are experiencing the hardest of the hard while others are experiencing the sweetest joys of life. And my kids want me to tell them why God works in such different ways in the lives of his children.
One way that I answer these hard questions is to talk about our lives as a part of His story. After all, history is His Story, and our lives as Christians are wrapped up in the unfolding of his Kingdom here on Earth. This idea is not new; it comes from the Bible itself. Scripture is God’s story of redeeming his people through the person and work of Jesus. In Titus 2:14 we read about Jesus, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good”(ESV). From Genesis to Revelation, every story of the Bible whispers the name of Jesus (Lloyd-Jones, 2017). All of history, from beginning to end, belongs to God. Let’s consider Isaiah 46:8-11:
Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it. (ESV)
When we look at the Bible as a whole, we see story after story filled with drama, with contemplation, with brokenness, and with joy- all pointing us to the work of and person of Christ. The Bible shows us that the Lord’s purposes are accomplished through the hardest of hard times as well as the sweetest seasons of joy. He is the author, and He is in control of every detail.
It gives me deep comfort to know that the Lord is the author of our stories. He is working every thread of our lives together to bring about His plan. When my kids see something hard like our friends with cancer, and they ask me “Why?”, I tell them that I do not know why. I am not the author; the God who made all things is, and that is more than enough. Besides, I am sure that if I was writing the story, I would really make a mess of things. I tell them to trust what God says to us: that He is good, and He is writing the story of our rescue from sin into life eternal. We must trust him to weave together the events of our lives for our good and His Glory.
And remember, we are limited by our vantage point of today. We cannot see how the stories will unfold tomorrow or the next day. That is why we take our petitions to the Lord in prayer and ask him to grant us peace while we wait for the details of our circumstances to unfold.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7, ESV
Our morning prayer requests lists have become golden to me because they serve as a reminder of the big and small ways that God has answered our prayers over the years. Some of the requests have ended in sadness, and others have been answered with great joy. But our comfort does not lie in the outcomes that we see now; it lies in this: when Jesus returns and establishes His Kingdom here on Earth as it is in Heaven, all of our stories will end in praise before His Throne of Grace.