Last weekend my wife and I watched “The Grey.” It’s one of the most (if not the most) depressing movies I’ve ever watched. I don’t necessarily recommend it.
But I’m learning that God shows up in all kinds of places. Even in a movie about a bunch of low-life roughnecks trying to survive the bitter cold and dangerous elements of the Alaskan wilderness. I can’t think of a worse scenario to contend with.
Tragedy, misfortune and calamity come as steady as a ticking clock. It becomes apparent that efforts to survive are futile. Toward the end of the story Liam Neeson’s character, Ottway, shakes his fist at God.
“Do something! Come on! Prove it! Show me something real! I need it now, not later! Now! Show me and I’ll believe in you until the day I die! I swear. I’m calling on you! I’m calling on you!”
Nothing but a long camera shot of an empty, bleak sky. Ottway soon realizes there’s going to be no help from God.
He stomps off muttering, “Forget it. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself.”
I found myself in Ottway. I’ve wrestled with a quiet, seemingly distant, perhaps absent, God. Most recently, my prayers for direction and clarity seem to bounce off the ceiling.
I confess, it’s been tempting to give up on Him and take matters into my own hands.
The difference this go around is that I’ve dared to admit it. I’ve been mildly irritated at God. Ticked off.
A couple of days later, though, I happened upon Luke 11:1ff. In this passage the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. What follows is Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer and then some instruction from Jesus.
A couple of things stood out to me. First, something about how Jesus prayed caught the disciples attention and fascination. After watching Him pray, the disciples make a startling request, “Teach us to pray like that.” (I added the last couple of words, but I think that’s what they meant.)
What was it about Jesus’ praying that triggered their response? Apparently, Jesus’ way of praying is a lot more compelling than mine seems to be. Half the time I have a hard enough time staying awake during my prayer time. I can’t imagine how boring it would be to anyone else who might watch me.
The second thing, I find it very interesting where Jesus goes in his instruction on prayer. Right after giving what we call “The Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus immediately focuses on our need to persevere in our prayer life.
He tells a story that’s always perplexed me. A guy needs food for an apparently unexpected guest, so he goes next door to a friend’s house to borrow some bread and lunch meat. The neighbor’s already in bed and is understandably irritated by this inconvenient demand.
But the guy with the guests doesn’t quit. He keeps pounding on the door until his neighbor (former friend?) gets up and gives the guy food to get this whole awkward moment over with.
Jesus follows this with the oft-quoted, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” He then wraps up this episode by assuring His audience that our Father knows what we need and will assuredly give us only good things.
I came away from this realizing I need Jesus to teach me to pray.
It also left me with a lot of questions about persistent asking, seeking and knocking.
Apparently for Jesus, prayer isn’t about easy and quick answers. Our Father apparently isn’t the magic genie that pops out instant results. There’s something important in the waiting, the persisting, the faithfulness.
But the bottom line is that Jesus emphasizes that our Father (a very different sense of the God Jesus prayed to than the one Ottway prayed to) is good. He’s all about being good and showing that goodness to us.
I wonder what difference this would have made for Ottway?