I found a lump in my breast.
I actually had a dream the night before that I stepped out of the shower and looked in the mirror and my right breast was a strange shape. When I woke up, I jumped in the shower and just for kicks did a self-exam – and sure enough, there was a small lump in my right breast.
My first thought was a prayer lifted up silently to God: “Please don’t let this be cancer.”
I consider it no coincidence that the day after this happened I read something in Live a Praying Life by Jennifer Kennedy Dean that made me write “Wow!” in the margin of my workbook:
“Usually, what we call the ‘desire of my heart’ is really a secondary desire orbiting around the true desire. Usually, what we think we desire is really the way we have imagined the true desire will be met.”
Jennifer goes on to describe a time she and her son prayed for his football game to be rained out so he could attend the baptism of two friends he had led to Christ. The game wasn’t rained out, but the lighting on the field malfunctioned and the game was called, leaving him plenty of time to attend the baptisms. The real desire of his heart – to attend the baptisms, not that it would rain – was answered with a resounding “yes” from God.
My mind replayed that prayer-in-the-shower. What was my true prayer? What was the root of that desire to be spared from a cancer diagnosis?
What’s Your Biggest Fear?
One of my biggest fears in life is that something would happen to keep me from being there for my kids. Fears surrounding my children have launched me into periods of anxiety in the past, and have robbed me of the mental and spiritual clarity to see God for who He is. So at the root of my prayer that this lump would be benign is my heart’s cry: “God, please give my children Your very best.”
3 Things I Want For My Children
As I allowed God to peel back the layers to reveal the deepest desires of my heart, I heard him saying, “Can’t I accomplish all of this whether you’re here or not?”
Ugh. Not really what I wanted to hear. But as I let the reality settle in – as I let God in – something began to happen. I think I’ve always had the head knowledge that God was sovereign and could care for my children better than I ever could, but I don’t know that until that moment I had the heart knowledge. As I meditated on who God was and his all-sufficiency and lovingkindness not only for me but for my children, the fear began to melt away. And that freed me to praise God for who He is, and to genuinely open up my heart to receive whatever the future might hold… at least in that moment.
The Power of Trust
There is power – so much power! – in entering into the presence of the Living God and asking Him to guide us in the process of peeling back what Jennifer calls the “desires of the moment” to reveal the root desires of our hearts. And as I’ve discovered, there is freedom there, too.
Freedom from anxiety, worry and fear. Freedom from trying to come up with all of the details of how life should go, or worry that you’re not praying in God’s perfect will. There’s freedom to pray with boldness and abandon, knowing that the Holy Spirit is interceding with our hearts to translate our fumbly-bumbly words into the purest, most simple desires within.
I do believe there’s a place for praying very, very specifically, and I believe there’s a time to pray boldly for physical healing. I think God lays specific prayer burdens on our hearts so that He will be glorified in their outcome, and I believe firmly in taking all things to God in prayer – uncensored. He can take it!
I believe that there are times when asking specifically for things can build faith as we see God answering so personally that there’s no question it was anyone but Him responsible for answering. But this new way of praying – this digging and sifting and peeling back and uncovering – is something that I plan to add to my prayer toolbelt and to use when the details of how to pray or my motives in prayer seem muddy or unclear.
Delighting In Jesus
As for my most recent prayers, I am sure the uncertainties and fears are going to creep back in and I’ll have to go back to the throne room and stand before God and let him back in, to shovel off the desires of the moment, revealing the root desires of my heart.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. ~ Psalm 37:4 (ESV)
I am so thankful that prayer is as alive and active as the Word it springs from and the God it is directed toward! So grateful that we will never understand it, and can never stuff it in a box and tie it up with a bow – but that we can grow in an incremental knowing of our Creator through it, and can ask Him to allow us to incrementally know ourselves and our desires as He conforms those desires to His own, so that our prayers become more and more powerful and world-changing.
Join The Conversation
How about you? What’s been on your heart lately when you talk to God? Might there be a deeper desire of your heart hidden beneath the surface prayers? We would love to hear your story!
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