May 10, 2007

Where Did It Go?

Sometimes I just wonder where it went. I remember a time when I was so passionate about praying. It was when I lived in Tampa and worked at the church there. I was even the staff member in charge of the prayer ministry. I would meet with lay leaders in that ministry every week and pray. I would meet and pray with my student leadership every week. It was a major part of my life. I remember seeing unbelievable things happen during that time - things that I don't tell people about because it is hard for some people to actually accept they happened. Things that still freak me out now. I was so moved by the verses about Elijah and how he was just a normal dude who prayed and it didn't rain for 3 years. (I guess all the smoke this morning made me think about all of this.)

But that is gone. It went away a long time ago. And no matter how often I think about praying, or try to get back in the swing of things, I can't get myself to get back to that place I was then. I pray with my kids before they go to sleep. We pray before meals. I try to remember to pray with the kids in the car on the way to school. And every so often I toss up some prayers during the day. But there is not that intense seeking of God's face.

It doesn't make sense either. Now, with working at a non-profit without a steady source of income, trying to find bookings and ministry partners, the stakes are higher than ever. I know that. But I still can't get myself to do what I need to do. Sure I pray like crazy every single month when our money runs out. And I pray like crazy when the stress of month after month of not having enough weighs so hard on my wife she breaks down in tears. And I know God provides - we have never missed a bill or a meal. But those things we need keep getting put off until you can't ignore them. And then a month like this one comes along - the perfect storm of financial ruin. Salary is less than half of what we need . . . tax return has to fill in blanks and barely will . . . everyone gets sick and we get hit with hundreds of dollars in medical bills . . . five weddings over five weeks (two of which I am in, which adds more expenses) . . . summer comes and kids need clothes again.

So I pray about that - I cry about that. But it feels empty. And there is no miraculous solution. Yes, the tax return came three and half weeks early, which will cover most stuff. But we look at June with nothing coming down the revenue pike, and we know that it was a temporary fix. So I'll pray about that, but....

I remember charging the throne back in Tampa. I would pray ridiculous stuff and then stand there with mouth agape as it happened. In a lot of ways, it was the worst time of my life. I was watching the first church I ever worked for start a series of mistakes that ultimately would force me to leave. I was single and lonely and confused. My dad had died a few months earlier. But my prayer life was insane. I remember going to two different summer youth camps that year - and watching God just show up in unbelievable ways at both. One of my students was there as a counselor - and would not participate in the worship services. He was going through a lot and was getting very hardened. One night, the Spirit was so strong in the service and this guy stood there with his arms crossed, glaring at the stage. I started to pray that God would make him sing. I prayed for about ten minutes. I looked up and could tell the guy was uneasy. He started coughing and choking, like something was trying to force itself out of his mouth. Then he burst into tears and started singing, all that hardness melting away.

I just stood there staring. And now it seems so far away. I pray for provision, but it trickles in. I pray for guidance and wisdom, but feel like I only have a match lighting my path. I pray for opportunities for Defender, but get just enough to give us hope - not enough to keep things going regularly. What am I doing wrong? What happened? Can I ever get that back? Will I ever be able to do what it takes to get back there? I don't know. I have to get there - everything depends on it.

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