Praying for the Impossible

Jun 04, 2010 |Elisabeth Adams
Praying for the Impossible

Praying for the impossible is not a test of my imagination; it's a test of my faith.  

We finally reached the bare, gray mountaintop and stopped to take in the familiar view: sapphire pools gleaming in hollows; pines, hemlocks, and maples clothing rocky slopes; the rolling, tree-smothered New England landscape; a distant lake. After a moment to catch our breath, we headed for a crack in the peak too small to be called a cave. "Don't get stuck," my guide joked, "or we'll have to move the mountain to get you out."

Taking a deep breath, I let myself down about 10 feet between two vertical shelves of rock, and began sliding sideways through the L-shaped bend that led back to the surface. It narrowed and narrowed, and suddenly, I could not move: not forward and not back. Emotions skyrocketing, I thought, This is what a panic attack feels like.

Interminable seconds passed. Then, somehow, I was unstuck, inching back toward the blue sky and freedom.

There are rather a lot of stuck moments in life. In fact, in the minutes since I began writing and rearranging this paragraph from the crowded seat of a south-bound van, our back tire exploded. Amidst lazy-blowing snowflakes, we are most definitely stuck. Fortunately, with seven male passengers hard at work on the problem, we won't be sidelined for long.

I wish I could say the same for my attitude.

As foolish as it looks in black and white, I'd like to take the Almighty to task. Don't You know, Lord, that I've got an article to write? Did I really need this attention-sapping uncertainty about the next month's plans, a persistent cold, computer problems and an unexpected trip?

Of course I'm grateful for all the blessings He's sending my way. I mean: Safety when that tire blew? Underlying health and peace? Salvation and my Savior himself? Why are these things being overshadowed with a little light, momentary frustration?

I don't even want to be angry with the One I love best.

In some stuck spots, there's something I can do — keep calm, keep moving (and think skinny thoughts). But at other times, I am so solidly pinned down that there's nothing else for it: Someone must move the mountain.

I am, in fact, face to face with an impossible thing.

Theoretically, there's no real problem: After all, I know the Expert in the impossible. I know He wants me to ask Him to move mountains. But right now, I am the impossible thing.

Why is it in the tiniest trials that I am utterly undone? Petulance, pride, selfishness — you name it, it pops to the surface. And then I truly am sidelined, torn between my need and my utter unworthiness to even think about asking for help.

But He says to come.

Just as I am. From just where I am. And, as the old hymn adds, "waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot." Which means not only, as I once thought, that I ought to be quick to repent, but even more: There's no use lingering to fix myself before I come, because only He can do the fixing! Anger, fear, lack of faith, busyness, uncertainty about who He is or what He intends for me — only He has the solution to all the things that try to separate us.

So I came to Him. Two weeks ago, when I wrote the above paragraphs. Last week, when I wrote some more. And yesterday, when I thought I'd finish this article, and had my plans turned upside down. Oh, was I ungracious! I lost count of the times I had to say "I'm sorry." And the times I begged, "Help, Lord — please!"

I understand that I need God. I understand a little testing. But why these piled-on impossibilities? Somebody (please!) explain.

In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, the eccentric Red Queen tells Alice that she lives time backwards — and is, in fact, 101 years old.

I can't believe that!" said Alice.

"Can't you?" the Queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Perhaps the tiniest trials are just that: practice in believing the impossible. An everyday, comprehensive course in prayer.

I'm into panic-button prayers with immediate results; He is into unfolding answers and ongoing conversation.

Lesson No. 1? God wants my attention.

Once upon a time, the tiny nation of Judah watched as three enemy armies piled through their back door — the Dead Sea area — and massed just a little over a day's walk away from their capitol city. This was a crisis beyond planning for, negotiating away or meeting head-on.

So they got really honest with God.

"We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but —

"Our eyes are on you."

"Faith," says A. W. Tozer, "is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God."The Pursuit of God. (Radford, VA: Wilder Publications, 2008), 58.

It works when I want something so much I simply cannot pray about it. It works when I don't know what to pray. It works when I don't even deserve an answer.

And here is the beautiful thing: Faith captures the attention of God.

"The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him."2 Chronicles 16:9

Or, as a peek into the Hebrew suggests: "Whose heart is perfectly towards him."

When I am craning my neck in His direction, He is eager to strengthen, help, repair, fortify, aid, amend, maintain, mend, encourage and prevail on my behalf!These are just a few of the ideas found in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible for the Hebrew word chazaq (#2388), translated here as "give strong support."

Did you ever notice what was always on Jesus' mind, what He was always longing to see?

With no one in Israel have I found such faith."

"Great is your faith!"

"Have you still no faith?"

"When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

Why pray for the impossible? Because it transforms me. Because it gives God glory. And because it delights my Savior's heart.

How do I pray for the impossible? Be confident, be persistent, be specific — and be ready for the unexpected.

My young friend Rachel dreamed of going to Brazil. Imagination hard at work, she'd been thinking, There's no way my dad can go with me. And there's no way he'll let me go alone. And —

"Rachel," her friend said, "Why not pray without doubting and see what God will do?"

She did, and He did. She's going to Brazil.

Praying for the impossible is not a test of my imagination; it's a test of my faith. I don't have to be able to foresee what God will do; I just have to give Him big enough space to do it in. Faith doesn't say "It could never ..." or "I would never." Of course I would never (in a million years) write a book, learn to ski or sport a softened heart. But that leaves God out of the equation.

He changes everything.

Impossibility does not intimidate Him in the least. In fact, it's His natural habitat, His joy and His glory. Impossibility has His name written all over it!

That's why, when He plans the birth of Abraham or John the Baptist, He chooses a mother who is not only barren, but too old to bear a child. When He wants to give victory to Israel, He chooses Gideon, fear-filled member of an insignificant family — and instructs him to send most of his warriors away. When He wants me to write an article about praying for the impossible, He's not at all perturbed when it's nearly impossible for me to do it.

Praying for the impossible works best when I see me small and God big. When I get over inconvenience and get excited about His glory. When I delight in His attention. When I —

Stop.

And turn to Him.

Copyright 2010 Elisabeth Adams. All rights reserved. Inter

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