What do you do when God does not answer your prayer request? I am helped with this question by Evelyn Underhill, a British lay person who was a prolific spiritual writer in the first half of the 20th century. As a radio personality and a spiritual director, she was a proponent of contemplative prayer and of heart-felt faith in everyday life. Her writing sounds amazingly contemporary to me. In her little book “The School of Charity”, originally published in 1934, she indicated that God will never do for us what we can do for ourselves. Yet at the same time, the Holy Spirit has a way of meeting us in the stresses and cares of our daily lives with a hard-to-describe presence which can surprisingly change our approach to what we are facing.
There is so much to learn through prayer and intentionally waiting on God. God can come to us in surprising ways. Prayer can deepen our experience of the moment which turns our interpreting awareness inside out. So what first appears to be a dead end, even in prayer, may be in reality a door to a greater understanding and peace.
One way to know when we are receiving God’s surprising grace is when an answer we receive is not what we expected. Another way to sense we are getting a nudge from God is when the word we receive is not our idea. Some of my favorite times with God are when an idea, a direction, a perspective or an attitude shifts, so that I almost don’t recognize what comes out. A friend of mine who wrote a book says that he heard someone reading out loud from a book one time and he thought – ‘my, that idea is pretty profound. I like that!’ Then we he looked to find out who wrote the book, he was shocked to see that the book was his!
When we are in the Spirit’s flow, we may speak and act in surprising ways, even to ourselves. This is just the way life with God is!
God, help us to get out of the way of ourselves. Show us how to put our own interpretations aside long enough to gain your approach to our need. Lead us to quiet our minds so that you can get through what you long to communicate and to accomplish within us. You offer us surprising grace and we are eternally grateful! Amen.