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Persevering Prayer for a Drug-Addicted Son

In Pray! magazine, Jennifer Kennedy Dean tells this story:

Several years ago, Mary (not her real name) came to me for prayer. She was desperate and afraid. Her son had been arrested for selling drugs. She told me the story of his years of drug abuse; the anguished attempts to overcome his addiction; the glimpses of hope that turned out to be false. Through his story she weaved in her own; she had prayed every way she knew how, and God had never answered.
I sensed that Mary had come to me because she was looking for someone who could "get results"—someone who knew how to pray with such skill that God would behave the way she wanted him to. Mary had a long list of things she wanted me to pray for.
I began by asking her, "What is it that you really desire for your son? As she went back to her list and began to read off her requests, I interrupted her. "No. Those are the things that you have determined will accomplish what you want for your son."
Years ago, God taught me that I can't know the desire of my heart unless I know the heart of my desire. So I helped Mary peel back the layers until she discovered the center of her desire: that her son would know Jesus Christ and find peace in his life. "Then that's what we'll ask for," I told her.
Things didn't go well, if you define things by circumstances. Mary's son continued to be bitter and suffered excruciating withdrawal. In her panic, Mary would say, "God isn't answering. Why isn't he doing anything?" I reminded her of what we were praying for. "Don't assume he isn't answering," I said. "Look for the path his yes is taking."
Fast forward: Mary's son was given a prison sentence. I wish I had room to tell you all the details that had to fall into place in order for God's plan to emerge, but the condensed version is this: He was led to Christ by a fellow inmate, who got him involved in a prison Bible study. Gradually, he became a different man. When he was paroled, he had to continue in a daily drug rehabilitation program. He finished the program, continued in his Christian walk, and has been sober and working for just over two years.
During all of it, what appeared to be backward was really forward. What appeared to be down was really up. What appeared to be dark was really light.
Too often we miss what God is doing in a situation because we pray "little prayers" that focus on a narrow, specific outcome.

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