Prayer has been like a wound I prefer to cover with a clean bandage.
Can I just keep prayer nice and neat? Can I just occasionally peek under the bandage to see if anything is changing? Can I just claim “Amen! Answered prayer!” when things are healing and “God has a plan!” when it’s still a mess?
For about a decade, I kept prayers in a safe spot under the bandage. I had to. There was a deep wound from unanswered prayer.
The prayer was for healing.
My teenage daughter has autism, hypotonia, is nonverbal, in diapers, and will require 24/7 care the rest of her life. We knew early her path was going to be different.
The prayers for healing began when she was around three years old after a woman pulled me aside to say she felt very strongly I should pray healing for my daughter. I was skeptical but she was confident.
I went for it. I was all in. I believed!
A year of praying for healing began.
Another year of praying for healing continued.
I gave up at 9:45 PM on November 11.
It was her 6th birthday. Behind balloons, singing, and a fake smile I was privately letting go of any notion her future would be free of significant disability.
I was so baffled and angry at God. Why would He ask me to pray for healing if the answer was going to be no? What kind of God does that? How cruel! I was hurt by God. I was angry at God. I was confused by God. I even questioned His existence.
I was wounded. I needed a bandage to cover my unanswered prayer.
God held me tight while I kicked and screamed. That was all that could be done. God held me the same way a mother holds a tantruming child. The embrace is tight until the child calms enough to listen.
Months later when the calmness came, God spoke in gentle whispers. He helped me understand the season of asking and getting a “no” was necessary so I could begin submitting. God needed me to let Him be in charge. He had and has good things for our family but I needed to step aside and allow Him to lead. I wish there was space in this article to share the many ways He has blown my mind over the years with His plans.
I remained wounded and didn’t even know.
With time, witnessing God’s good and perfect plans brought me to a place of never asking for anything in prayer. It seemed silly to ask. First, He might say no again and I was afraid of another wound. Second, why would I ask for my plan A when there was a history of His plan consistently being better?
My spiritual director began to pick up on what was happening. She pointed out these safe prayers might be hindering intimacy with God. She used the analogy of our children asking for extravagant things. What would happen if my young child asked if she could have cake for breakfast? Would it make me mad? (no) Would I consider the request? (maybe) Would her vulnerability deepen our relationship? (yes).
The challenge: Ask God for cake.
At the time my “cake” was an IEP item. (For those of you not in the special needs world, an IEP is for alternative school services) I reluctantly began to lift up a specific and bold prayer. It was very uncomfortable praying so specifically. In the beginning, the prayer had safety net clauses telling God I was fine with His plan. They were wimpy prayers and not at all full of child like boldness with the security of relationship to ask crazy things. It did, however, become slightly easier with each week.
Then the big day of the IEP meeting came. Would there be cake?
Yes, there was cake. The IEP team agreed to the request without hesitation and at a much more generous level than I could have ever dreamed.
A few days later, the paper work was prepared for my signature. I have two kiddos and had done a good bit of volunteering in my other daughter’s classroom. The teacher of my special needs daughter approached on the right and handed me the IEP for signature. On the left, my other daughter approached and handed me a three tier bunt cake from her teacher as a thank you for volunteering.
There I stood with the IEP in one hand and a three tier cake in the other hand.
God was literally giving me cake to go with my cake.
I have no idea what it all means and still have a tendency to want to keep prayers safely under a bandage. However, God is healing that wound. He is inviting me into an intimacy where I am free to express my deepest wishes regardless of how trivial they seem. I am beginning to see how He wants to show me more of Him. He wants to show me how good it is to submit to Him but also how at other times He just wants to sit down and enjoy cake together. He is teaching me how to be comfortable with both.
Just Get Over It - Recounting the time I tried to heal myself. Spoiler alert: It didn't work.
Transitional Planning Series - A four part informational series regarding IEP goals during the teen years. If you have a teen with special needs, you need to know this stuff.
?Happy Birthday? - Now that my daughter is approaching adulthood, birthdays once again have an unspoken undertone.