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Conflicted Prayers

I find myself sitting here in the JFK airport during our nine hour layover- expectantly waiting for what this trip has in store for us. For many different reasons, the planning for this trip has been exceedingly difficult. Changing plans, changing team makeup, and changing expectations have created a run-up to the trip that has been incredibly stressful on everyone. How Amy (my wife, pharmacist, and logistics expert) has managed it all to this point is simply beyond me. I think that I can speak for both of us in that we are already rundown before ever setting foot in Ghana. I am praying that arriving in country will be rejuvenating and uplifting for us – returning to a place that we love and in many ways we consider home.

This trip is one of firsts: It is our largest team. It is the opening and commission of our hospital. It is our first time staying in a new hotel. It is the most “non-medical” team makeup we have taken. In all of these ways, it has the most uncertainty of any of our trips and in my world view that is generally a bad thing.

In a moment like this, it is very easy to pray for things that bring us comfort and security. That I would get over this nasty cold. That things would go smoothly and safely in our travels. That we would run efficient medical clinics. That all of the plans we have made will work out. That everything would go as expected. That things would be easy for me personally and for our team. These are all good prayers (especially for safety)- and yet I am conflicted about praying them.

A phrase that has continued to rattle around in my brain is “not my will, but Yours be done”. This will be our 6th medical trip to Ghana and along with that comes expectations for how things will be and what we will do. We will see this many patients and will do all of these things. Yet, as our planning process proves, we ultimately have very little control in any of this. It is God who directs our steps, plans our trips, and purposes our mission. All of the changes are of his doing- why would I struggle against them?

Our first trip to Ghana, Amy pointed at a store sign and told me to take a picture of it. I didn’t think much of it at the time but that picture has come to symbolize much of my Ghana experience- “Whatever God does is good”. That sign is as true today as was when I first snapped the picture seven years ago. It is a false sense of my own worth to think that I planned this trip, or that I am responsible for it. God orchestrated each of the challenges we face so that He may be glorified. I may not understand all of the how’s and the why’s but I don’t have to.

Paul stated our responsibilities this way in his letter to Thessalonica:

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

So I should rejoice and give thanks even when my ears wont pop on the plane. Even when our hotel plans change. Even when we have a nine hour layover. And especially when we are about to enter into a grueling week already physically and emotionally exhausted. With every circumstance I have a choice in how I respond… Your will be done.

So my prayer for this trip is not for the easy but for the uncomfortable. “Lord, I set aside my planning and expectations to be obedient to your will”. If that means that I don’t have control, then I will choose to submit and if that means we don’t accomplish what I hope we accomplish, then I will redefine success. As a very wise friend pointed out to me yesterday (in reference to ‘thy will be done’), “It’s going to happen whether we pray it or not”. To which my conflicted heart can only say “Amen”.

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