“Seeds of Faith”
There was a time in my life where I truly believed in the power of prayer. My faith was as strong as the mustard seed. I knew with everything in me that God answered prayers. Not just “in His way” or “in His time.” He had the capability to answer prayers in the now, to show you through purposeful, clear action that He was with you always, listening to what you wanted and answering them because of your faith.
I remember the sermon that brought me to this certainty, that God would do exactly what you asked Him to do; you simply had to believe. It was the story of Gideon in the book of Judges that spurned on this faith: the sign of the fleece. At this point in Biblical history, the Israelites had been delivered from Egypt. However, because they turned their faith to meaningless idols, God had forsaken them. The Israelites were at constant battle with the Amalekites and Midianites who, like locusts, swarmed in and ate the crops and livestock the Israelites produced. Because of this, they were forced into living in caves and hiding whatever produce they had from the Amalekites’ and Midianites’ insatiable reach. In this part of the story, the Angel of the Lord finds Gideon.
In short, Gideon is told that his clan will be the one to deliver Israel, even though it was the weakest of all the clans. When the day comes for this deliverance, Gideon asks God to give him a sign that ensures God’s promise to deliver Israel through him. He lays a fleece on the ground and asks God to make dew appear on it while leaving the surrounding ground it is set upon dry. He picks up the fleece in the morning and wrings it out. God answered his prayer; He gave Gideon the sign he asked for. But Gideon didn’t stop there. He then asks God to perform for him again, but this time, he asks God to make the ground surrounding the fleece wet while keeping the fleece dry. And God did it, no questions asked.
What I learned from this sermon is that God is not always angered by tests. If you truly believe and merely ask Him to manifest Himself to you, to show to you that He is listening and will answer your prayers, He will do it.
So I believed.
I did my own test following this sermon. I prayed and prayed for God to show me signs that the unrequited love I felt at the time for a certain someone was what He wanted me to pursue. If God could show me that this man was the one I was supposed to be with, I would follow His signs. However, I knew I had to pray in a way that wouldn’t cater to a situation in which I was creating my own signs. So I prayed for three things to happen that never happened between me and this man, and I prayed for it to happen in a specific order. Then and only then would I know what God wanted me for me.
First, he had to touch my knee. Then, he had to put his arm around my shoulders. Last, he had to kiss me. They had to happen in this exact order, and they all had to happen for me to know God was answering my prayer.
I promised God that I would not encourage or make anything happen. I would simply pray that night and see if God would manifest His answer. That day came. I was hanging out at my friend’s house, playing video games, chatting. I kept my distance from the person I had prayed about the night before, not daring to interfere with God’s answer. And then it started to happen. At some point, he sat next to me, closer than he usually did, and in a few moments he put his hand on my knee. I was elated. I could feel God speaking to me. I kept my cool and continued not to encourage his behaviors, acting as if nothing was happening, continuing to chat with my friends with him sitting next to me. Then he placed his arm around me, just like I prayed for it to happen. I praised God. He was working. He was showing me that what I felt about this man was true and good and worth it. My heart raced thinking of the moment that we would finally have, the last step, where our lips would finally meet and everything would come together as it should, as God planned.
But the kiss never came. And I was left in confusion. What did it mean if God manifested two out of the three signs, but left the third one undone? Was He turning around and testing me? Did I do something wrong? Did I not have the right faith? Was He taunting me? Was there no such thing as answered prayer outside of the usual answer I heard from other believers: that God was working in mysterious ways? I didn’t understand.
I still believe in God. I still try to pray and have faith, but from that point on, I have to admit that I spiraled. I didn’t disdain God or hate Him. I just simply didn’t understand Him and stopped trying to. He says, everyone says, I just have to have faith. I just have to believe. But I did. I truly did. And nothing happened.
I have to say here and now that I am happily married. That I love God and hope that what I am choosing to do in life is what He wants. But there is a doubting Thomas that grew in me from that day, and from there it has led me to all sorts of questions and confusions. Though I never stop believing in Him, though I never stopped trying to model my life after Him, my faith is weaker, and it is a struggle everyday for me to continue believing. But I’m still trying. I hope that’s worth something. I had faith like a mustard seed once in my life. Now I am more likened to the seed that was planted in rocky soil: springing to life but with one touch of the sun, withering away, back to dust.
So, that leaves me with my purpose for the experiment. I want to retest my faith. I want to openly pursue the power of prayer in the way I believed all those years ago, and I want to test it against the spiritual/secular approach to “prayer” where one manifests to the universe what they really want in life in order to effect real change. I’m not sure what I’ll get out of this. I’m not sure where I’m going or where I will end up. I don’t know how I will test things out exactly. But I’ll try to figure it out as I go along. Stay tuned.