Safe Prayers

"For this is what the LORD says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the LORD..." (2 Kings 3:17-18)

 

In a little corner of the Kootenay mountains lies Silver Springs.  It's a beautiful little spot in the Elk Valley, perfect for cliff jumping. My flatland upbringing had no way to compute what my friends were asking me to do. Jump? Off there? 45 feet in the air? What about rocks hiding under the waters edge? What about not jumping far enough and landing on a rock on the way down? What about...what about....it’s just not safe! My legs were locked and frozen, unable to jump. 

A friend of mine offered to go first. “Just watch me and then jump!” I watched her. It still seemed nuts. I watched others go and they encouraged me to jump. And it looked like they were enjoying myself. But I can remember gripping the edge with my toes, my stomach turning, my body sweating, heart pounding and looking down the cliff.  My body and brain knew it was insane.  

Sometimes, it feels easier just to stick with safe prayers - ones you know that God should most likely answer. The ones that are easy, ones that you could probably fulfill yourself.

Safe prayers.

Prayers where we don't have to wrestle with disappointment if God says,"no". Requests where we won't be angry if they aren't answered.  Prayers that we can explain away if God answers differently then we have expected. 

After the ache and sting of a string of unanswered prayer, I had moved to offering safe prayers in my life. Not intentionally but true none the less. I think I was making the excuse that there just wasn’t time for long, intense prayer times so these were just “short” prayers. I would pray comfort for those who are suffering and, strength for the day, patience for my children.  And these aren’t necessarily “bad” prayers but I know I asked them out of an unhealthy place. I asked them because I felt confident that God would answer these because they do not seem that hard.  I was praying safe prayers because then I would not have to be disappointed by God again. I asked them to assure my own happiness and out of an unwillingness to submit myself to God's will.  A will that I can neither control nor always understand. 

The problem, I have realized, about praying safe prayers is that it keeps God small. Small enough that I feel like I can control him. Small enough that He can neither surprise me or disappoint me. It keeps Him falsely manageable. It keeps God at bay and un-wonderful. Just a little distant but also weak. It keeps my relationship with him polite but not intimate.  Safe but not exciting. Tidy but not messy and transformative.  

The verse at the top is an excerpt from an event from Elisha's life.  And let me tell you, Elisha's God was/is not small.  In 2 Kings, God is speaking to a group of earthly kings who are planning on stopping up the water springs of their enemies in a battle.  And God tells them that He will fill a valley with enough water for them, their subjects, and all their animals, without even making it rain and that "This is easy in the eyes of the LORD."  Defying all of creation and the created order is easy for God.  Moving against all natural laws is old hat.  Disrupting and maintaining the world systems is a cinch. This is who God is. Miraculous, mysterious, and marvellous things are easy for him. This is a big God. There is little about safety here and a lot about grandeur and power and majesty.  

But real, wholehearted prayer is a little like cliff jumping. It's terrifying. It’s stepping out into the wild unknown and jumping, asking God for the things that seem improbable and impossible to our mortal brain. It’s trusting He will catch us. Trusting that He will sustain us EVEN IF he says “No”.

It’s praying for those things you think you can’t ask for. And I’m not necessarily talking about material things. I am talking about an ability to forgive someone you just can’t. I’m talking about real, full healing from old wounds and physical ailments, broken relationships and psychological pain. Restoration of a once vibrant relationship with God now gone quiet. A way forward in times of conflict in your marriage. It’s using your God given imagination to pray for things not yet seen on earth. It’s being willing to allow God to be big enough that he can heal and raise people from the dead and fill valleys with water without any rain. It allows God to be God because these things are easy for the LORD. 

God isn’t safe and safe prayers do not fit in his realm. He is wild and bigger than I can ever imagine or know. He is not tameable, no matter how hard I try with my attempts to do so with safe prayers.  

And, as Mr Beaver most wisely responds when asked if Aslan is “safe”, “ ‘Safe?...Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.” 

The wonderful news is that just as big as God is, He is also that good. And when I reduce my trust in God’s strength and power by praying safe prayers, I also reduce my belief in His goodness. A God that is weak and controllable could not also be very good. But God’s goodness is as great as His power. His kindness as wide as the ocean and His love reaches to the heavens. Just as the Psalmists.   

And as I write this I can feel my hands begin to sweat and my heart pound because I know the things on my list that I am not asking God about. I cannot help liken it to that day so many years ago, looking over the edge at Silver Springs. Dreams I have, hopes I have, requests that seem impossible for myself and others. Prayers that I just cannot quite figure out how they would come to be.  And I know He is asking me to ask them. To be brave, to trust, and to speak out those things long left painfully quiet in my heart. 

But He is the giver of dreams and hopes, the ones who places these things in our hearts. And it seems only right to ask. For these things are easy in the eyes of the LORD.

You see, when I finally jumped it was like nothing I had ever experienced. It was exhilarating, joyful, wild, and a little bit like flying.  And the day was not without injury, I ended up with cuts and bruises, a scar on my hand.  Not from jumping but from climbing out and scrambling to get to the top. But I never regretted it because the experience of jumping far outweighed the pain.   

And how much more infinite can God's goodness in my prayer life be?  How much more is there waiting to be experienced with Him? No more safe prayers but rather a reliance on a God who is big in both goodness and power. A God for who unimaginable things are easy.  May you and I be brave enough to follow Him off the cliff and jump!