I entered this fast with a couple of specific intentions in mind. Usually, when I petition someone about something, one of two things happens: they give it to me, or they say no. Once they say no the matter is closed. If that happens, I can try to find what I need from someone else or figure out some other way to solve my problem.
That doesn't seem to be how it works when you petition God. When I ask God for something, a myriad of things can happen. In fact, I believe they do. Once I set my desire on something and I vocalize it in prayer, an entire drama is set in motion, one that includes and affects me, my dreams, the other people who would be touched in some way when the prayer gets answered, and if it doesn't. Praying is like that old adage: A man can't step into the same river twice; he is changed and so is the river.
Over the course of my life I've had the privilege of praying for some pretty big things. I prayed to be rescued from an abusive marriage. I prayed to heal from banktruptcy as the result of my divorce. I was unemployed for two years and prayed both for a job and for my daily bread. I prayed for comfort when my children were taken from me in a nasty custody war. I prayed for a loving partner, I prayed for a way to use my gifts, I prayed for my children to return to me and for our relationships to be restored. I prayed for healing for my sister who has cancer and I prayed for healing for myself from a back injury that left me incapacitated.
That's just the beginning.
Some of my most ambitious prayers have been answered and my desires have become manifest. Others are clearly on the way because I can see things lining up and moving in that direction. I love how my Pastor put it: When we pray, God isn't going to sprinkle pixie dust on us and make our problems magically go away. We have a responsibility to own our prayers - and our prayer life. For me, that means examining my heart to be sure that my desires are within God's call, insofar as I can discern. Then, I must seek guidance about what my role is in that prayer, and I take steps forward as God leads me.
Of course, I've prayed lots of prayers that didn't get answered. In many cases, once I pray, the steps God leads me to take bring me into a deeper understanding of myself and my life and I can see that what I am asking for doesn't fit. Sometimes that's really painful, but eventually God gives me the grace for the desire to resolve as a new, more clearly defined one is ushered in its place.
Prayer isn't an order we place with God, barking our desires into a speaker and then pulling around and hoping someone opens the window and hands us a bag containing our wish. Rather, it is a dance with God, an engagement with His will, His power, our own personal drama, and with the world itself.