I was taught that prayer is always good—that we are to always pray and that our prayers are powerful. And while all of this is true, I’ve recently started to see how prayer can be bad. Let me explain.
During prayer one evening in December of 2013, God showed me that my prayers were all wrong. For several months I had been asking God questions about my love life—was He sending me someone whom I could love and start a family with or was He leading me on a life-long adventure that would involve just the two of us? Although I could see enjoying either scenario, seeing the joys and challenges that each presented, I really wanted to know, and I knew that God could tell me, just like He told me that I would work in entertainment six years before I went on my first audition.
Now while it’s ironic that God showed me that my prayers were wrong while I was praying, what is also noteworthy is that I wasn’t even praying about my love life in that specific moment. I was actually praying about the disappointment that I felt about a film that I was set to “star” in being postponed. (For those of you unfamiliar with how the business of entertainment works, “postponement” in Hollywood can mean many things. It can mean just what it suggests, that the project will take place at a later date, either months or years later, or it can mean what it often means, which is that there is some hiccup (usually financial) and that it will never happen but the producers are either too hopeful to realize it or too proud to admit it.)
Well after I found out that the film had been “postponed,” I began to feel the weight of the disappointment. Only six days away from walking onto set, I was mentally and emotionally prepared to take on my character. I had cleared my schedule, learned my lines, developed my character, rehearsed with the other actors, hired a coach, done the table read, and worked with the make-up artist to figure out how to age me for the role. I was ready. And then I learned that I didn’t need to be. Well…not yet … or… maybe never? I didn’t know how to handle the news. I knew that projects could disappear suddenly and had experienced them falling through before, but this was my first lead role in a film, and I had spent months preparing. I deflated and then I cried. I quickly told myself to just assume that the film was dead; it was easier to deal emotionally if I assumed that it was over rather than continuing to hope only to be disappointed again down the road.
But as I told myself that it was over, I realized what I was doing: I was trying to protect myself. And in that moment I realized that I had to make a choice: either I could tell myself that the film was dead so that I could protect myself, or I could maintain hope that it would still happen and trust that God would take care of my emotions, even if the project fell through.
I decided to trust God. So during that prayer time, as I was asking God to help me deal with the disappointment—both real and potential—I asked Him to show me ways that I was trying to protect myself in other areas of my life. That’s when He brought up my romantic life. He began to show me that my prayers during the last several months had been wrong. I had been asking Him to speak to me about my love life because I wanted His words, (whether a “yes” or a “no”), to protect me from the potential disappointment that the future held. If He said “yes, I have someone for you,” then I could continue to hope. If the answer was “no,” then I would know to grieve now and move on, preparing myself for a life of singleness.
No wonder He hadn’t answered me for all of those months: My prayer was all wrong. I was looking to his “prophetic words” to instantaneously calm the part of me that feared experiencing tremendous disappointment, instead of trusting in the essence of who God is, which is goodness.
Today, I no longer pray for God to reveal the future to me, (although I’m open to it). Instead, I ask Him to help me experience this Psalm daily “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” –Psalm 23:6