There are many tools in the box of the special needs parent: humor in a crisis to help dry tears (not my forte), how-to books and hopeful stories to counter “what-if” fears, coffee to keep going after sleepless nights, and Cadbury’s chocolate for pretty much everything else.
And prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.
Until recently, I thought I knew how to pray. For example, I often use the Lord’s prayer as a template to converse with God in my favorite armchair in the morning, cup of tea in hand, when my messy house is still and quiet after the earlier rush and mayhem to get everyone off to school.
In college I learned to pray using the CATS method of confession, adoration, thanks, and supplication. (Or the ACTS method, a different order of the same that I suppose is more appealing for those not fond of felines.)
I’ve read books on prayer, taught on prayer, and faithfully practice it sometimes several times a day—especially when I haven’t spoken to an adult for more than 12 hours and need to use up 10,000 words before my weary husband arrives home after teaching 200 middle school band students.
But this week I discovered something I didn’t know before. Prayer also requires audacity.
“Let our children see your glory. And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful.” Moses wrote in Psalm 90:16, 17. I’ve read this prayer before, but this past week the last words hit my heart like a hammer, “…make our efforts successful.”
Why were those four words shouting at me? Insisting on my attention? I thought about them and finally picked up my pen to journal my thoughts. What came out, instead, was a prayer on paper that dared to repeat those same audacious words.
“Please, please, Abba, make our efforts successful. Make our efforts successful to find a church community for my sons where they can finally connect and feel part of your human family.
Please make our efforts successful to grow our children into purpose-filled men and women who love you and have confidence in your plans for them.
Please make our efforts successful to help them see who you are, and how you are at work even when we can’t put all the pieces together in a way we understand.
Please make our efforts successful to mold our children into the people you want them to be and not what I want.
Please make our efforts successful to help them know you—if they have you, then nothing else really matters. Not even autism.”
The words poured out of me and spilled onto the paper, page after page. On and on. I felt like a child writing a long, greedy list to Santa Claus, scrawling out all the desires of my heart, both spiritual and lofty, and those begging for survival’s day-to-day manna.
Had I never asked God for these things before? Yes, I had. But this was different. This wasn’t asking for the spiritual equivalent of a Chatty Cathy doll or to make me a size 6. This wasn’t telling God how to do His job, or meekly asking in a passive spirit, unsure of His response.
This was joyfully daring to ask God, believing with a sense of relief that He will answer “yes” when I align my purpose with His. Even if I don’t know how or when He will answer. This was asking with excited surety that our efforts, surrendered to His purposes, will not be in vain.
But there is something else I know.
Moses’ prayer didn’t end with a tidy resolution, praising God for proof of His answer. To see God’s answer to his prayer, we must look to Genesis where we find that things did not go, as I suspect, as Moses would have planned. Moses, for example, never entered the promised land of Canaan, and the history that unfolded afterward was difficult, marked both by God’s faithful shepherding and marred by sin’s detours along the way.
In the end, however, Moses’ prayer was answered by God with a resounding “Yes!” The Israelites did see God’s glory. They obtained his approval, and, under Joshua’s leadership, they entered the Promised Land. Their nation was eventually founded. The Messiah was eventually born, and by His gift of love stretched out wide on a cross-beam of Roman execution, God fulfilled His promise to make Abraham’s children as numerous as the stars. Promise kept. Efforts successful.
Maybe that is why I have been so unable to ask God in the past with such courageous expectation. My family’s history, too, is filled with God’s faithful shepherding, but also marred and detoured by sin along the way.
Yet, I have only to look back at how far we have come to know that God is already honoring our efforts to care for the children He has entrusted to us (despite knowing I have a short temper and tendency to act before I think or pray).
Look back and see how far God has brought you. God is honoring our effort to live for Him. Our efforts are not futile. God sees. God knows. God is at work. And we will see His glory.
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