Category Archives: Prayer

Ike’s prayer

As I was lying in bed listening to the winds of Ike howl around my house, I reflected on prayer. Most likely because I was doing a lot of it. You could clearly hear the big gusts of wind as they came around the house and bent the trees. At the sound of this wind, I could feel the anxiety well up in me and my stomach would get that feeling like coming down off a roller coaster…not a good one in my opinion. This happened every few minutes and even putting the headphones in to listen to the battery powered radio could not drown out the sound of the wind.

I was praying to God rather generically for “things” to be okay. But, as my children were not with me (they were at their father’s house) I also prayed for their well being; for my house; for my other family members in town. Now, prayer of this personal favor nature has never felt right to me. Who was I to ask for God to protect what was precious to me? Wasn’t everyone in Ike’s path that night making the same silent entreaty? Probably; I had no right to expect these favors and really no right to even ask it. I’m not of the belief that God personally intervenes to grant us our petty wants – because we don’t and can’t know God’s nature, we can’t assume what matters to us also matters to him.

So, what I did do in the early hours of that morning, when you realize that EVERYTHING is out of your control, is thank God. I thanked him for giving me the ability to be calm in the face of danger, for giving me the intellectual capacity to prepare and make sure my family and home were as safe as I could make them, for blessing me with so many wonderful things that I would do anything to not lose them, and for giving me the confidence to know that even if I did lose all of them all was not lost.

I was very fortunate in Ike, my home was not damaged and my family was safe. What more could I ask for? Electricity!… but that’s another story. By thanking rather than asking I was able to calm the waves of panic and accept that there was nothing I could do. Which oddly made me feel more in control – I was thinking in future terms, mentally planning and keeping my brain occupied not with fear but with the future, with a positive perspective.

I will never again pray the same way. We could all stand to be a little more thankful and a little less selfish.

A few days later (and still without electricity by the way)…
I’ve reflected on what I wrote here and wanted to add that this type of prayer applies to prayer for others. And it’s for the same reason, only God knows what’s best for those I’m praying for. My asking for a job to work out, a marriage to mend, etc. is what I think will make them happy. But may actually turn out to be the absolute wrong thing in the long run. So now the prayer is for them to use their God-given courage, intellect, kindness, and confidence to shape their lives for the positive.

impatience (aka quaker meeting #4)

After my 4th Quaker meeting, I felt a real sense of failure. I had not yet really been able to concentrate on prayer and certainly hadn’t felt moved by God. As usual my expectations were quite high, and wholly out of sync with my actual set of beliefs!

I don’t know what I thought would happen exactly. I would open my heart to God, actively seeking to have a deeper understanding of Him and spirituality in my life. Then I would get a personal message from God letting me know that I was on the right path and everything would turn out fine. Riiiiiight! I don’t even believe this sort of thing does happen – yet there I was feeling dejected that, despite my four Quaker meetings and one hour a week where I at least thought about praying even though I didn’t always manage it, I had not received personal confirmation from the Almighty that I was ok.

It makes me laugh to think about now. But I marvel at my impatience, at my forgetfulness that the journey is the most important part not necessarily the destination. I was reminded again of Elaine Pagel’s quote about needing to practice Christianity, and not just to be it. Patience is my first big lesson from the Quakers I can tell. It’s something I have so little of on a daily basis – I always want things faster, sooner. Then of course when I get there, I have a moment of shock and say “wait, I wasn’t ready for this!” It’s quite typical of my pattern.

It’s a pattern I’m looking to change. I remembered a post from a woman on a message board I read describing an incident of a bird fluttering about her head, sitting on her shoulder and chirping in her ear. After the bird flew off the woman thought to herself how wonderful it was that God had shared that moment with her. She saw that bird almost as God Himself, taking time to share His beauty with her.

I am in awe of people who can see so much beyond what is in front of their eyes. These are the truly blessed. I would have seen a bird, and more than that, I probably would have been annoyed by the chirping and flying. How many times have I missed seeing something for more than what it was? How many of God’s messages may I have not heard because I was expecting a phone call?

I’m a practical person by nature, very much seeing things for exactly what they are. I believe I can learn, and that anyone can learn, to see beyond. To be open to more than the surface physical attributes of something or someone. But like everything else it takes practice and patience. Although a phone call would be nice too! 😉

on prayer

I read several things recently that have led me to attempt yet another posting on prayer (I’ve started and deleted two others). Although I’m not comfortable with praying, I keep doing it and have very strong feelings on the subject. This of course qualifies me to write on the topic! Praying is much like running for me, I keep hoping it will get easier but I always feel better afterwards.

The first thing I read was a posting on a discussion board about prayer – the writer was concerned because they felt selfish praying for themselves yet didn’t really see how praying for others (especially others they didn’t know) could help. These are probably feelings we’ve all had at one time or another. The post did lead me to think through my own thoughts on why and how I pray.

Praying for oneself does feel selfishness and unsatisfying. Every time I find myself thinking “God, please let me (fill in selfish outcome here)” my mind jumps to all the thousands of people in the world who would give anything to be in my position. It helps me focus on how amazingly lucky I am and takes my mind off the whatever-it-is I wanted.

This in and of itself is a good outcome; however there are certainly times when I feel I really need help. So I pray for one thing and one thing only: Strength. I ask God to lend me his strength, to help me hear and respond with an honesty that only He can provide so that I can get through whatever it is I’m trying to get through. This prayer for me is very satisfying – it reminds me of God’s awesomeness, His ability to know what’s right for me even when I don’t.

There are numerous occasions I can point to where the “best” outcome was not the one I would have wished for. You know, when that thing you dread or fear happens and you realize not only that it wasn’t as bad as you thought, but you actually came out better and happier on the other side. It’s when I look back at these occasions in my life that I know that the only thing I can ask God for (for myself or others) is the strength to get through whatever it is that’s hit the fan.

Ok, the second thing I read highlights the exact opposite of this concept. NPR had a piece on the Church and the super bowl with this line:

“The coaches of both Super Bowl teams, Tony Dungy of the Colts and Lovie Smith of the Bears, are known for openly professing their Christian faith. Both gave credit to God for their teams’ appearance in today’s big game.”

What irks me more than a little is the thought that God cares who wins a football game. And that there are people who seriously spend time praying about the outcome of a sporting event. God is not a switchboard operator, listening to each of us and handing out blessings. Otherwise we’d all be blissfully happy having everything we wanted. Now, I don’t know if these coaches believe that or if the writer just wrote it that way. But I do know people who believe that if you ask for X you will eventually get it. That if God wants something to happen He will make it happen for you. My interpretation would be that you had the strength of God with you as you persevered to achieve something meaningful to you.

God did not invent passive human beings to sit back and wait for Him to do things – like playing doll house. He wants us to act on His messages (let’s ignore for a moment how confusing those can often be 😉 and participate in life. DO, don’t wish or wait. And yes, praying for others does count as doing something because it can change how you feel and impact how you act.

A note on the power of prayer:

The first time I realized that prayer was powerful was when, after a particularly trying time, a friend told me that they had been praying for me. No one had ever told me this before. I was stunned and profoundly touched. That someone would take time out of their day to think about me and wish good things on me was such a wonderful feeling. This made praying for others much easier for me. Even though they might never know of my prayers – it made me feel good. And that’s part of what we hopefully get out of praying for others is learning how much better it makes us feel. And that’s not necessarily selfish – when we feel good about ourselves we are happier, kinder, and better people – which is probably not a bad way to boil down His message…