I love fiction. I love reading novels. I love possibilities and drama and wondering what is going to happen next. Last year I read A Praying Life* by Paul Miller and came to Chapter 19 titled “Watching a Story Unfold”. Miller talks about how our life is a story and praying shapes us and helps us write our story. You’d think with my love of story, I’d jump on this idea. But I resisted it. I thought to myself, ‘Life isn’t a story. Life is—well, life.’
To think of my life as a story felt too open-ended to me. If my life is a story that hasn’t finished, then how can I be sure there will be a happy ending? After all, that’s what I signed up for when I decided to follow Jesus [obviously overlooking the spoiler alert in the gospels: He suffers betrayal and abandonment and dies an excruciating death].
Then I embarked on the six-month prayer challenge* praying every day for four specific areas, and the idea of life as story began to make sense to me. God has given me free will, and like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series* I get to write my own adventure. By praying, I was asking God to come into my story. I was asking Him to teach me what His ideas were for my story.
Talking to Him every day has shaped my story. At the start, I treated Him more like a ghost writer. It was my story and I was going to get all the credit. Then, I was going to give Him a byline after my name. Eventually, I invited Him to be the co-author [and there are days when my choices don’t work out so well and I want Him to take over the whole story].
Over the past months, there have been powerful and unexpected answers to what I asked for. As I shared and listened and met with God daily, it drew me closer to Him. And I developed the habit of prayer–or to put it another way, my prayer muscle has never been as strong in my life as it is now.
My faith increased too and I ended up wanting to write a bigger story, as it were. In one area, I started out asking God for something which I thought was very bold. But it was like a novice film director asking a studio to finance a 30 minute movie. Around month four in the prayer challenge, I realized I was asking for too little. So I stopped asking for a 30 minute feature. Instead, I started asking for a 2 and 1/2 hour major motion picture with a really big and expensive and thrilling chase scene thrown in.
But there have also been chapters that I didn’t plan to write and some of my requests remain unfulfilled. In one area, there have been a lot of struggles, failures and setbacks, far worse than anything I could have imagined. It could make me wonder if God has really been paying attention to me as I’ve talked to Him. But then I witnessed an incident at the mini-park when Sam was here and I was reminded again that prayer is not like a cash machine.*
Sam was in an inflatable play area with a tall long steep slide. In this little scene all he wanted to do was climb to the top, and slide to the bottom. Simple and fun. He got to the top, went to the edge and stood for a moment before he slid off. But a boy, taller, bigger and older than Sam, came up from behind with a swagger. He looked at Sam waiting to go. A surly expression came on his face. He took a few steps forward and without any warning, pushed Sam off.
Suddenly, Sam was unexpectedly swishing down the slide. Fortunately it didn’t put him off balance and he landed fine. But when he got up, he looked surprised, wondering what had happened to his neat little episode. What happened was the bully wanted to write a different story, one where he inflicted pain and suffering on innocent victims. It was a picture of how Peter describes Satan: Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. [I Peter 5:8]
I fall into the trap of thinking there is just God and me working out the scenes of the story in our daily screenwriting sessions. But there’s a bully on the movie set who wants a different story. I wish I could get him off the set. I wish God would banish him or at least silence his accusations and lies [like ‘if God really loved you, you wouldn’t have any problems, and He’d answer all your requests the minute you made them.’] But whether I like it or not, part of my story includes dealing with natural disasters, other people’s bad choices, and this bully who prowls around trying to throw me off balance.
So my six-month prayer challenge is turning into a twelve-month prayer challenge. In fact, since the epic blockbuster movie may not be finished in my lifetime, and Satan isn’t going to be banned from the set, I expect I’ll be asking as long as I have life and breath.
A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm…Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.