A Prayer For Those of Us With Fairweather Fathers.
In September, I attend a church I don’t normally go to. When I walk in, I notice the sermon is on “The Power of Prayer” and I know immediately this was where I need to be + where I least want to be. I’m in a two and a half year wrestling match with God on prayer – specifically unanswered prayer. So I walk in, see the sermon title in my bulletin, and think, “Well, if I listen to a sermon on the power of prayer, maybe I’ll know how to get these prayers answered.”
It was a powerful sermon. Still, I feel my heart hardening at the end of it – writing it all off as important for others, but I would still wrestle with prayer.
The pastor shares at the end about the tension between the power of prayer and unanswered prayer. I prepare myself – I’m rarely impressed by stories of unanswered prayer these days. Nobody talks about their unanswered prayers until after the prayers are answered.
But the pastor says he talked to his dad on and off over the years. I shift uncomfortably. While the pastor became a Christian later in life, his family didn’t and his dad didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ. He talks about praying for his dad for decades – and my heart is so cynical, the walls are so high, I think, “Well it must’ve been easy to pray because he loved his dad.”
The pastor’s next sentence was, “and I had a really hard relationship with my dad.” And much like Jericho, walls came tumbling down.
He prayed for his dad for 25 years. He admitted there were periods where he paused, discouraged by the lack of answers. But for 25 years, he prayed for his dad to come to Christ – and the last coherent conversation he had with his dad, his dad did.
He ends the sermon by saying it won’t always end like this, but it did for him. My fingers reach up to wipe the tears that are pooling in the corner of my eyes.
I cannot say this story out loud without crying because I think of my own dad, who I don’t talk to. I think of the hard relationship I have with him. I think of the frustration, anger, and emotional trauma I experienced at his hands. And I think of how frustrated I am that it feels like this is the one prayer that won’t be answered in my life – that my dad would personally come to know Jesus and because of personal relationship, his life would be transformed. I think of how I have wrestled with unanswered prayer for two and a half years, how often I’ve asked others questions about this, how often I’ve cried to my husband about this.
And I’m at this church and this is the part of the wrestling match where the angel of God reveals himself and leaves me with a limp and a blessing. The blessing of God coming near and saying, “You’re not alone. This isn’t just you. Here is the faithful example of someone else. He was faithful, even when there were pauses and questions. He was faithful when it was hard. Hannah, you can be this faithful to pray about your dad for the next 25 years.”
That night, I come home and I don’t even know where to start. What does a 25 year prayer game plan look like? Instead, I write words I know I’ll share because I know I’m not alone in needing a faithful witness + a concrete prayer to return to.
I know I’m not the only one wondering, “Why won’t God answer my prayers about my dad?” I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t even know where even to start. I know I’m not the only one who needs words to soften my heart towards praying these prayers. So I wrote a prayer and it’s for us. For you, if you need it, and for me, because I do really need it these days.
A Prayer to God as a Father for Those With Fairweather Fathers
God, I know you have the eyes of a Father –
Watching, as we take risks.
Searching for us in a crowd.
Seeing us in ways we do not see ourselves.
Jesus, I know you have the hands of a Father –
Rough from your work for us.
Clasped in prayer for us.
Scarred with sacrifice for us.
Spirit, I know you have the heart of a Father –
Stepping in to comfort.
Bringing forth the voice of truth.
Generously binding our heart closer to your voice.
God, I know you as a Father –
And God, I know you mourn with me.
You are not a God who delights in my disappointment.
You grieve with me –
That in my life, the eyes and the hands and the heart of a father were not always there.
God, I know you grieve –
for the way that earthly broken relationship has kept me from closeness with you.
You are broken by broken relationships,
By the lack of restoration in all things, even in this.
Especially in this.
I know every time I shed a tear,
Every time I let go a little,
Every time my heart shattered ---
Lord, it hasn’t been – and it won’t be – easy to trust you all the time.
But I am confident that through the power of the Spirit,
Through the sacrifice of your Son,
And with your heart for your children,
You will make all things – including a broken relationship with my dad – new.
It may not be on my timeline.
It may not be in the ways I expect.
It may not even be answered.
Surrendering to you may be the hardest thing I do.
But God, you delight in your children.
You delight in restoration.
You delight in reunions, in sons coming home to you.
You delight in healing the broken, leading the lost to be found.
And I pray this restoration, reunion, and healing will be found in his life.
I pray that that this restoration, reunion, and healing will be found in my life, too.
On whatever timeline, in whatever way, with any answer you give.
Continue to see him.
Continue to hold him.
Continue to love him.
Continue to see me.
Continue to hold me.
Continue to love me.
And continue to reveal yourself as Abba Father to me.