I believe God only gives three answers to prayer: One, yes. Two, not yet. Three, I have something better in mind.
- Arthur Caliandro
Back in August the dentist broke my upper jaw while (unsuccessfully) attempting to extract a molar. On Monday I had to go back to have the tooth surgically removed.
As I lay in the chair doing a lot of deep breathing, I noticed how different my prayers were, simply because I had no choice but to be there. It made me wonder what portion of my prayer life is about choices: how to make good ones, avoid bad ones, get better ones and deal with the outcomes of my decisions.
I know my desire to have choices has, at times, warped my perception of God. Sometimes I turn to him as the way to get my options changed; when I'm focused on getting better choices on the menu, I'm focused on me, not on him.
Other times I turn to God as if he's my personal option-clarifier; I expect him to eliminate uncertainty and make my best choice blazingly clear. This is far more about my dislike of ambiguity than about having a trust-based relationship with him.
Thankfully, there are times when I recall that my focus should be on the faithful choice, the one that draws me closer to God, rather than the one that’s most comfortable for me. Lying in that dentist’s chair, it took a while to figure out the faithful choice.
It wasn't in the Please don’t let them break my jaw again! prayers (though I said plenty of those!)
It wasn't in the Help me stay calm! pleas, which also came naturally.
It was simply the choice to say, I’m here, Lord. I’m terrified, and I am with you, and you are with me, and I love you. If they break my jaw again, so be it.
Julia Attaway is a freelance writer, homeschooler and mother of five. She is the editor of Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood, a book of devotions for first-time moms. She lives in New York.