Have you ever got what you prayed for? Or have you ever got exactly the opposite of what you prayed for? Sometimes I wonder if it’s not exactly the CONTENT of the prayers that do us good, as much as the ACT of praying itself. You know, the talking-to-God part, the asking-for-help part, the I-can’t-do-this-all-on-my-own part that helps us the most.
This time of the year, I like to put myself in Mary’s sandals. I wonder what Mary prayed as she swayed on that donkey’s back from Nazareth to Bethlehem. I wonder what she prayed as she prepared to have her baby. I think I would have prayed things, like, “Lord, please let me get back to my mom before I have this baby,” and “Lord, please let Joseph find a job when we get back,” and “Lord, please make this baby healthy,” and “God, please don’t let it hurt too much,” and, “oh God, I’m really scared!”
But as her labor pains started, and she knew she’d have to give birth while on the journey, her prayers may have changed. Maybe they were, “God, please let a nice family take us in when we get to Bethlehem,” and “Lord, prepare us a warm, safe, clean place where my son can be born,” and “God, please let there be someone who knows what they are doing to help me deliver this baby,” and “Oh God, I just want a hot bath!”
When she prayed these prayers, do you think it ever crossed her mind that all the towns folk in Bethlehem would turn them down? That no one would open their door to a pregnant woman and tired man? That she would call a barn floor her nursery, her new husband her midwife, and lowing cattle her roommates? Do you think it ever crossed her mind that a feed trough would be her answer to the crib prayer, and an animal shelter the answer to her safe-warm-clean prayer? And bleating goats the answer to the nice-family prayer?
She must have been completely bewildered with God’s choice of provision- like He wasn’t even listening, or something. Like He didn’t even care. Like He didn’t even see.
Have you ever felt that way? When everything you hoped for, prayed for and dreamed of was dashed in an instant and what was left was disappointment?
I suppose she could have focused on all of these things as a far cry from “provision.” She could have called them, “not good enough,” and “not clean enough,” and “not safe enough,” and “not ok.” I suppose she could have experienced God as distant and aloof, with a closed ear to her prayers. Maybe she wondered if she’d done something wrong, and God stopped listening. Or maybe she thought she mis-heard God’s direction.
I suppose Mary could have been devastated by the circumstances that took place- the circumstances that robbed her of her honeymoon, her reputation, her comfort, her safety, and her dreams of being a respectable mother and wife.
We don’t know if she had any of these thoughts and fears, but I can imagine she did because she was human- and that’s how humans roll. But Mary chose to see these events as necessary, these burdens as blessings, and these hardships as the pathway to salvation and peace. Mary made choices along her journey to see the miracle among the muck, and her calling in the struggle. After the birth, and the angels, and the shepherds and the star, Luke 2:19 said, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
What if all you need is right there in front of you? What if the provision is already yours, the deepest need has already been met, and the prayer is less about the WHAT and more about the WHO? What if, like Mary, we could be still with the mystery of HOW God provides and trust that He WILL provide?