Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Limping in Triumph

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27

Prayer is not magic.  God is not jinn.  There is a long tradition in storytelling of the unintended consequences of wishes granted and magical fulfillments going all wrong.  We never have to worry about that when we pray.  The One who searches the heart is the Spirit of God Himself.  He knows our deepest needs, our desires, and what is best for us.

Until I am certain that God is Good, and that, as Jesus told the rich young ruler, there is none good but God, prayer will always be a struggle for me.  Prayer warfare could be described as a battle to surrender -- not to be defeated, but to know to whom we are surrendering.  The most concrete illustration of this in the Bible may be Jacob’s wrestling match at Penuel (Genesis 32:24-31):

He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”  Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.  So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Like Jacob, we wrestle in prayer, not to defeat God or bend Him to our will, but to know His will for us – to find our place in Him, to be fully convinced of His love for us.  In prayer, we find that we are not all-knowing, all-powerful, or unbreakable.  Prayer exposes our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  God can disable us with a mere touch.  Sometimes He does this simply because we will not surrender otherwise. 

What this story tells me is that I cannot give up until God breaks me.  My job is to hang on doggedly until He says my limit has been reached.  Even when it seems the light is about to break on my darkness, I cannot let go of Him.  The blessing is in the breaking. 

It is in the realization of our brokenness that we come to understand the perfection of His will.  If we surrender, in the sense of giving up, before that point, we will never know the fullness of His beauty and truth.  It is only in being defeated by God that we know victory.


julie said...

I was thinking of this post today. We weren't wrestling angels, but did race a storm through Oklahoma only to be caught in Little Rock, even as we reached safety. Sometimes the light at the end gives a false sense of security; it is indeed in the breaking that the blessing comes.


He took the bread, blessed it, and broke it...

I had never thought of that aspect of the symbolism before.

mushroom said...

Blessing and breaking -- I like that.

You were in my part of the country. We had a lot of straight-line wind damage around home. One of my Bradford pear trees split right down the middle. Glad you are safe.