Changing Our Reality
Updated: Nov 2, 2021
I was recently talking to an old friend, Barbara, the pastor of the church I grew up attending, about prayer. I had remembered her commanding presence and confidence in what she referred to as “the power of God,” which was fully reinforced as she recounted the substance of her prayer life. She told me that for a recent family vacation, she'd prayed for on time flights, no lost bags, perfectly sunny weather, and a healthy digestive system. During her pregnancies decades ago, she had even prayed for a fully pain free labor and delivery! With great authority she declared to me – her finger high in the air while she spoke – that “because of Jesus we no longer live under the curse and can claim these things for ourselves.” Her bold naming and claiming of the power of God stood in contrast with my own prayers of late. For example, I'd been carrying around some big emotions recently that felt unpleasant and that I wished would go away. My prayers towards these feelings had been mostly about feeling God's presence and comfort in this difficult space – it wasn’t my natural inclination to just declare these unwanted feelings part of the curse or to claim a different reality. I couldn't help but think how differently Barbara might pray in a similar scenario. In light of Easter, I've been thinking how this difference highlights two views of Jesus and the significance of what he did on the cross. On one hand, my prayers seem to reflect a view of Christ as a co-sufferer - one who carries our burdens and demonstrates that he co-suffers with us through what he endured on the cross. My view has been Jesus is here with me in this. On the other hand, Barbara's bold requests and declarations reflect a view of Jesus' power that is focused on his victory over sin and death. Barbara’s view has been Jesus can and does transform our reality. When I read the gospels, I see accounts of Jesus healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, and setting prisoners free. I see where Barbara finds her faith, and it’s beautiful. While I believe fully in God's power to make big, drastic, crazy changes to our circumstances, I also know that life can be filled with sickness that doesn't go away or hard circumstances that don't change in the ways we want no matter how much specific and bold prayer we throw at it. As a result, I more often lean towards a view of God as one who often chooses to suffer with me whatever my situation, who comforts me, who never leaves. And as over the top as I think some of Barbara’s declarations can be in the face of difficult realities, her bold name-it-and-claim-it prayers have led me to consider how my views of Jesus as a co-sufferer put Him in a box when he also has the power and willingness to intervene in ways I can't comprehend – the ways he absolutely can change my reality. I have no answers for today, but I do know I want to hold these qualities of God together with open hands. My hope in doing so is to leave him room to move in my life in whatever ways he wants. ᐧ-Melanie M.