In this time of social distancing when I can’t be in church or hang out with friends as much as I’d like, I’ve been spending more time reading. On Sunday mornings my family gathers around our kitchen table to read the Bible and a contemporary edition of John Bunyan’s classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress. Before bed, I turn to either Andrew Murray’s 19th century devotional on prayer (loaned to me by a friend) or to author Maggie Wallem Rowe’s brand new devotional This Life We Share (NavPress, 2020).
In 52 brief reflections on “journeying well with God and others,” Rowe, 67, a popular speaker and dramatist, invites readers to examine the uncertainties and challenges of life and offers encouragement. Divided into four parts – the inner journey, the intentional journey, the relational journey and the God of your journey – Rowe’s book focuses on finding peace, discovering your identity, connecting with others and connecting with God.
Throughout, Rowe is honest, warm and humble, like in the following excerpt from reflection 46, “The Paradox of Unanswered Prayer.” Years ago while vacationing with her husband in the Great Smoky Mountains, Rowe met a young couple, Amy and Billy Joe, at a Bluegrass street dance. After getting to know each other, Amy blurted out, “Hey, I know we just met, but would you pray for us? Billy and I have been trying for years to have a baby and there’s nothing the doctors can do. You seem like praying people. Would y’all remember us?”
“Did we believe God could give them a child?” Rowe writes. “We sure did. Did we believe he would? That’s where faith falters. In Scripture, we’re told to ask for what we need and also what our hearts desire. It’s our part of the partnership in how God chooses to work in the world. But are we guaranteed an answer?”
Often months or years go by and the situation for which we are praying seems to be unchanged, Rowe admits. “If I claim to have the definitive answer to a conundrum that has perplexed God’s people since time began, you might as well throw this book in the trash,” she says. Instead, Rowe talks about the importance of faith: believing for what we do not currently see. Rowe says that while she has prayed for loved ones, only to see them die, she still prays, “Because along with the anguish of loss, I’ve also experienced the wild joy of God’s YES,” such as a chance meeting several years later in which she spotted Amy at another concert.
Rowe wove through the crowd, wanting to know whether God had answered her prayer. “Then she turned, stooped, and opened her arms wide to scoop up a tiny, tow-headed boy toddling toward her, his face wreathed in smiles.”
“The power in prayer,” Rowe concludes, “is not in the words themselves or in the ones who pray but rather in the one who hears us. Even when you can’t see him at work, you can trust his loving and good intentions toward you.”
A good reminder during this time apart, that even when we may not be able to draw close to each other, we can still draw close to God.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the The Best Birthday and four other Lantern Hill Farm picture books, celebrating the holidays in a way that builds children’s faith. All personal proceeds from these books benefit children at risk in the developing world.