You Don’t Need Answers (A New Way to Pray)
Posted on April 24, 2014
I fell into my usual Monday morning routine: I scrapped out of bed, reached for my meditation pillow, and thrust my body into a yoga stretch before sitting Indian-style on the rug in front of my bedroom window. It’s one of the few places in my apartment that allows sun light to awaken my sleepy thoughts. Just as I anticipated hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit, my mind chatter began. At once my questions and unanswered prayers buzzed like a swarm of angry wasps. I learned that in meditation we are not to dismiss our thoughts. Rather, we should investigate them. In this way we can best understand which of our thoughts are “real” and worth addressing.
Each of the questions were given access to roam through my mind, but almost instantly I found myself on the verge of a panic attack (a common occurrence when my meditation goes awry). Why haven’t these prayers been answered? Can God still hear me? Is He near? Did I do something wrong? As I began spiraling out of control the Holy Spirit spoke into my heart, “Shakirah, you don’t need answers.” Then my mind went quiet and peace washed over me like waves to the shore. I was humbled by God’s willingness to filter through my junk and speak clearly. I evicted the questions and focused on getting to the heart of what the Holy Spirit was trying to teach me.
In the first two years of my faith I was in search of answers. I wanted to know if God was going to fix [insert everything that was broken with my life at the time]. I wanted to know how God was going to work miracles for me. I wanted to know if God could give me a job, a house, a romantic partner; you name it. I wanted to know everything up front as a way to pacify my insecurities and instability. Three years removed and expectantly more spiritually mature, there I was again: sitting, ruminating, and coincidentally entertaining fears I thought I had curbed. Like a spiritual junkie, I was seeking answers to insignificant questions when the ultimate answer was right in front of me.
Before Jesus’ crucifixion, in John 14, he is found comforting the disciples by assuring them of eternity and of His return. The disciples (always a curious bunch) had questions. Rather than assuage their curiosities with explicit answers, Jesus simply reminds them that it all begins with Him: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Plainly, Jesus is the answer. This is beautifully illustrated in His encounter with the woman at the well. Most of us know how the story goes. Jesus is at a well in the middle of the day, a time when most women would be fetching water, presumably for their domesticity. His presence was, by cultural standards, controversial. Still, this didn’t stop Him from engaging with a woman known for having many lovers. Their exchange is one I believe we can all relate to. The woman asks Jesus a question and he indirectly responds by giving her more than she bargained for–an offer of Himself. Her conquest of lovers, as Jesus saw, were merely an outward expression of her constant seeking. She divided the affections of heart searching–for love, perhaps. Whatever the motivation, Jesus knew the only way to satisfy her deepest desire was to give her everlasting life through His ever-sustaining water. As it is with us.
I am no different from the woman at the well. On Monday morning, seated Indian-style with the sun rays warming my face, I carelessly opened my heart and lusted after the comfort of certainty. I was willing to compromise my peace for the instant gratification of knowing what comes next. I wanted the answers, but as it turns out I didn’t need them because the answers are never what bring me closer to Jesus. The irony in our seeking anything but Jesus is that even when we arrive at the thing we’ve wanted (the answered prayer, the closure, the resolve, the fulfilled desire) more things unravel themselves and we are still left appearing unfulfilled. Jesus, our bedrock, does not change. He is certain. We can bank on that.
I am resolving that my prayers will no longer be a means to go through Jesus to get what I want. Instead, I’m praying for a heart that goes to him with reckless abandon and willing reverence to follow Him into the unknown. Sure, stepping into the unknown maybe scary and even a little messy. But, isn’t the scary, the messy and the adventure of navigating the unknown with Jesus what makes life beautiful, anyway?
Now it’s your turn: Does Jesus’ offer of Himself to the woman at the well resonate with you? Why or why not?
Tell me in the comments section below.