Wait and See!
I’m almost finished with Miller’s wonderful book, A Praying Life. I’ve learned so much and here in the closing chapters is one of the most helpful insights that I’ve yet received. I’m going to try to summarize, and then apply this insight to our homeschooling lives.Miller identifies a three-stage rhythm to the praying life. He uses Jesus’ description of how the Kingdom works, as recorded in Mark 4:26-29, as his framework:
And He [Jesus] was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows–how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
First, we must make our requests to God. We should do this thoughtfully, and in faith. We scatter, as it were, prayer seeds. And, importantly, we do it before we weigh in and mess up relationships or situations. (More on this later.)
Second, we should watch and wait. We watch our “prayer seeds” with expectation and, like farmers who grow in experience as they watch, year after year, the weather, soil, and seeds interact to bring forth fruit, we watch with growing knowledge of the ways that God works His story in our life and in the lives around us. Sometimes, God brings and works through suffering. (More on this later.) Sometimes, He works through a change in circumstances. Generally, His workmanship is most easily identified as Him retelling the gospel story.
Third, we work! When the harvest is at hand, we must haul out our sickles and labor industriously in the white fields of the Lord to bring in the sheaves of blessing.Miller says that we often miss Step 1 because our culture trains us to fix what’s broken immediately, and in our own strength. We weigh into relationships and situations (often because we don’t think that things will change without our intervention) determined to change others or conditions by means of our own strength, according out our own understanding, and on a timetable of our own devising. Miller observes that seldom in these kinds of action-oriented approaches do we seek God, or bathe the situation in prayer. We just act and, in doing so, we often make a mess. (THEN, we pray… when we reach our end, but by then God’s subtle rhythm is interrupted and we may lose much of the blessing that He intended when He began to weave His storyline into the start of the situation. We then get angry with God because He doesn’t bail us out soon enough, or easily enough, or completely enough, and distance between Father and child results. Thus, are we hindered in prayer.)
Step 2–”watching”–is learning to see that the Storyteller is retelling the gospel. Watching is waiting expectantly for God to act, and having eyes to see when He does. When you plant a seed, you expect it to germinate and grow. You do nothing to make this happen; it is simply the natural course of things that seeds sprout, and plants develop, given the right conditions. Even so, our seed prayers must yield results; it’s the nature of God to answer prayers of his children.In our lives, as with the gospel, suffering is often involved. It might be we who suffer; it may be the person who we are praying for because we (or they) need to change and suffering gets one’s attention. It interrupts pride and dreams and plans and causes hearts to soften. Suffering plows up the ground and clears choking weeds of worldliness. God may also change circumstances, or relationships. What we are watching for is God acting in ways that accord with His character. Often, the changes are slow–like the unfolding of tender leaves–and we can miss the growth if we don’t watch with full attention, expectancy, and patience!
Step 3 is the harvest. When the suffering or changed circumstances produce a softened heart, we should be ready to throw ourselves into action by working as Christ did: we love, we serve, we teach, and at times, we suffer so that others might know God.
I just love Miller’s insight, and all the more so because it’s so relevant to us moms, especially as we work with our kids. Homeschooling is not a sprint: by definition, it’s a marathon. We’re in it for the long haul. And our children are so like young and tender plants. And isn’t it so so tempting to try to “fix” them right now. Or, if not your kids, how about our husbands? Have we lost hope that they can ever change in ways that we want them to? Or, perhaps our growth curve is with others with whom we share the homeschooling journey. It’s harder to start with prayer, rather than action that we take into our own hands. But it’s better! As we focus attention on our own sinful hearts during daily trysts with God, we grow more tender before Him. Part of that tenderness is meant to be spent on faithful prayer for our children, husbands, and neighbors–but more than faithful prayer is called for. Are you praying with expectancy? Do you really believe that God can act on the innermost heart of that rebellious child, or surly spouse, or difficult fellow homeschooling parent, or neighbor kid?
He is God, y’know. He really does hold all things in His hands. All things work together for the good of those who love Him and are willing to be changed into the image of His Dear Son (Romans 8:28-29). How often do we soak in the good of that truth? I’ll raise a hand and admit that, more often than not, I’m acting as a functional atheist, who wades in to save the day in prayerless arrogance.
What would it be like if you took your hands off the situation or relationship that is driving your crazy and purposed to rise early tomorrow and put the whole thing into Father’s hands? What if you did so in faith and with a real expectancy that God would act, since you asked?
Then, how would it be to not take it back!? (Aye, there’s the rub!) Imagine yourself only watching (but with such joy and wonder) small tendrils of growth and, again, as an act of God’s grace alone, not rushing in to trample the tender shoots before they ripen, but watching and praying all the more and waiting for the harvest?
What would it be like–when harvest time has fully come–to rejoice with your child, husband, friend, or neighbor as you watch God change them from the inside out, making them (and usually, you, too!) more and more like His Son. What would it be like to not even remember the bearing with, the patience, and the costs of watching, but rather to have renewed energy to join the sinner in walking the last weary mile to the goal post, just for fellowship. What would it be like to come alongside your errant child, your distant husband, your abrasive neighbor, as a fellow sinner and help, support, and guide them just when the time was right so that what you have to offer is acceptable, gifted, and used of God to further His Kingdom?
It can happen! Pray–watch–work! God’s rhythm of Kingdom life is closer than we think!