Guest Post by Vivian Hyatt
When I was growing up, we sang in church “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross.” Did we know what we were asking? The adults in the church maybe did; I certainly didn’t, as a child, then a teenager. The need to pray—nay, the desperation—has kept me near the cross in ways I did not want nor could I anticipate. What the saints before me have learned, I had to find out for myself. God has given—is giving—me that opportunity. Near the cross: death to some of my dreams and deep longings for ones I love dearly; grief for what look like lost years, years they could have been walking with the Lord. Sadness that threatens to overwhelm me at times. But—near the cross. Where else could I possibly go?
I have always “believed” in prayer. Which is to say, I’ve always believed it was more than a good idea: it was the right thing to do. Jesus prayed; He still prays. He taught the disciples to pray and gave them a sample prayer. That, in itself, should speak volumes. He didn’t say, “Don’t sweat it, I’ve got you covered.” He taught them that their heavenly Father was actually listening, waiting, expecting them to pray—and that He would answer. He Himself prayed such an intimate prayer to His Father in John 17 that it could make one jealous. “I’m coming to You, Father,” He said, several times and in several ways. He could hardly wait, it seems, to get there. And He appeared to have a need to express that longing in prayer, even though it would be just a very short time before He came into His Father’s presence.
Because Jesus prays, I believe in prayer.
The hitch, then: why do some of my “lesser” prayers seem to be answered more readily than my greater ones? When my husband was a seminary student and I was full-time Cru staff, we were getting short checks and were church-mouse-poor. One day, I dropped a contact lens on the floor of our tiny bathroom. I got down on my hands and knees and felt over the entire floor. I carefully shook out the small rug and felt some more. We couldn’t afford another contact lens. I prayed for three days. The third day, as I was “sitting there,” I kept gazing at the floor. There it was, on the rug.
Again, just before Christmas, we ran out of food and money at the same time. Our Crusade check wasn’t due for another week. We decided to pray and not tell anyone except God of our need. We immediately received an invitation to dinner at someone’s home. We got different invitations to dinner each evening all that week. We hadn’t had any invitations all semester. The day our check came, the invitations stopped.
Do I still believe in prayer?
And yet—thirty years ago, I began what has become a long reach of prayer for major answers I have not seen, answers on a different scale entirely than those “minor miracles.” I can’t be certain I will ever see these answers, at least not in this life. What, then? Do I still believe in prayer?
Philip Yancey, in his book Prayer, Does It Make any Difference? writes that, when we pray, we are “keeping company with God.” What would I trade for the last thirty years of keeping company with God? And—not only when I’m desperate.
One morning decades ago, with the exhaustion that comes of having several small children, I struggled with myself when the alarm went off. But I had committed myself to getting up—I’d seen the positive change in me. So had my husband. I got up and opened my Bible to where I had left off the day before. This is what I read: “The Lord God has given me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not disobedient, nor did I turn back.” (Isaiah 50:4-5) I was moved to tears. The Lord wanted to keep company with me! That has been my watchword ever since: spending time with Him, in His word and in prayer, is for both of us.
Sometimes, though, prayer still seems like a long, long reach. But if I’ve been praying for thirty years, it’s too soon to stop now. And He seems to want me there, near the cross.
Vivian and her husband, Trent, served with Cru in Eastern Europe and Russia for 39 years. They now live in Dayton, Ohio and go back to Eastern Europe twice a year to teach in the Institute of Biblical Studies and to mentor missionary leaders. When she’s not on airplanes, Vivian enjoys gardening, reading books to Trent while he washes the dinner dishes, skyping with her four grandchildren who live in Germany, as well as her five children who live in two countries outside the US and two states. She must read, and she must write. Best of all, she loves sharing life with Trent.