At the turn of the year, I was in a pretty miserable place.
You see, Christmas was hard. It didn't feel like Christmas, for one. Which may have made it a little easier to have not returned to the states to see family, because it didn't feel like Christmas, but there was far more loneliness than we were prepared for. Many of our friends in Indo were sick, and so we mostly stayed at home and did the same things: woke up, went for walks, visited the mall, walked home. It was a fairly mundane 3 weeks.
During that time, we started reading Prayer by Tim Keller and I decided I was going to imitate Daniel in the Bible and pray 3 times a day. Twice on my own (morning devotions and once when Charis was napping) and then I counted Adam's and my jointly nighttime prayers as my 3rd. I decided I'd pray for 40 days. In a way, it was similar to a fast.
But you see, I wasn't praying to simply know God better or to worship God rightly, as Daniel did. No, I had an agenda. I wanted God to do what I wanted.
Not that what I was asking for was something sinful. Not in a clearly blatantly sinful way. I was just praying for my way. For deliverance to something. For provision. But deliverance and provision in my way.
But then God did what God does through prayer. He changes it all.
That is what I learned while praying for 40 days and parenting a small human:
As I prayed, it started out as "God, please do this. Please give me what I am asking for!"
Now juxtapose the image of a 16-month-old girl signing "Please!" 20,000 times a day while pointing at something. Every day.
Sometimes I'd give it to her right away (water sippy cup, toys she can play with). Sometimes I'd say a firm, "Oh, you've got to be kidding me!" (scissors, permanent marker, my phone). But often - in fact, incredibly often - my answer was, "Yes! Just wait a little bit. In a while."
But that answer was as bad as a "no" to her. Interestingly, the things I usually said, "yes, just wait a bit" were about going somewhere. She loves to go. To get out of the apartment. To visit daddy at work. To see the students.
But her timing was off. I was often preparing to go - because if any of you have a small human, you realize you have to pack half the things you own in preparation of going. She, of course, is oblivious to all the things that have to be done in order to go. But they must be done.
And as I prayed, I connected the dots - I thought of God as my heavenly father, and how he was parenting me daily. And I was asking 20,000 times - often with tears - "Please!"
And maybe my timing is off.
Which is where the second part of 40 days of prayer changed me. Eventually, instead of praying, "Please God, do it, I cannot. Please do it now," I began to pray, "Lord, help me trust you. Help me trust your timing. Help me to remember you are my deliverer. You are the God who provides."
To the point that on day 36 of 40 we received news that the what I had been praying for was not a closed door. It might not be a "no," but rather a "just wait a bit." And my response was deep ambivalence. I ran to God with fear: "God! Is this what you want? I've just become still and (semi)content in the place you have me. Are you shifting everything? Because I know I've been praying for it, but now I'm bewildered!"
And God reminded me: Peace is not some inexplicable internal feeling you cultivate on your own. No, Peace and contentment are inextricably connected to trust. Trust in God. Remembering his promises.
And if God opens the door, then his timing is right. And I do not need to fear.
What though I wait the livelong night,
And till the dawn appeareth,
My heart still trusteth in His might;
It doubteth not nor feareth:
Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed,
Ye of the Spirit born indeed;
And wait till God appeareth