The other day I told my friend, who is suffering with depression, that I had been thinking so much about her. True. But it struck me that I wanted to say that I’d been praying for her but I couldn’t honestly say that. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I forget to pray. And I know it’s not a coincidence that God brings people to my mind. And I’m pretty sure He doesn’t intend for me to spend some sleepless minutes at night thinking about people. Pretty sure my thinking has no power. So after I texted my friend to say that the almighty Anne had been thinking about her, the sentence, “Work on being less of a thinker and more of a prayer,” whispered into my brain. It just kept floating around in my head all day. God. He was talking again. And my first thought was, Shit. Does that mean I have to become one of those women who lives for prayer meetings, who talks about how God has blessed this or that, who is utterly and annoyingly certain about everything, who never argues or questions?
I don’t know. But I do know that I am skeptical of prayer in a holistic way. I don’t doubt at all that God works in our hearts through prayer. In fact, I have seen God work so powerfully in my heart and in my husband’s that I AM CERTAIN that God is the keeper and protector of our hearts. But can I trust him always, with everything? Can I pray that he heals my friend’s depression’s, my friend’s headache’s my God- daughter’s anorexia? Can I pray that he’ll heal a little boy who has a damaged brain? Can I pray for these things, when in my heart, I am smirking? It’s sort of like how I am ashamed to give a command to my two-year-old son in public because I am fearful that he won’t do what I asked him to do and then all these people will know what terribly disobedient kids I have. (Come here Oliver. No movement toward me. Come here, RIGHT NOW! And then he grins and toddles away. That last RIGHT NOW really did the trick…) The only time I can consistently pray with sincerity and hope is when I am praying for God to give peace that transcends all understanding or when I’m praying away bitterness or anger in me or my children in their relationship to one another or other kids at school. When I am overcome with a broken heart for something or someone and I find myself calling out to God without even knowing, I am really feeling it. Sometimes I am so preoccupied with what I DON’T understand about prayer, what I DON’T like about what other people have turned prayer into, that I sort of treat prayer like Thing 1 and Thing 2 Come on prayer, get back in that box, you menace. You’ve done your thing, the only things you can do and now get back in the box before you trick someone. You are tricky.
So who am I really sending to the box? Dumb question. Obvious. In my heart I believe that God is a bit tricky. Yikes. Don’t know how to deal with that, but I have a feeling that it involves God’s fancy footwork on my heart—the dance that is a mystery to me. I’m pretty sure that my view of God and prayer limits what He can do in me and for me, limits my roll as his hands and feet on earth. So ok. Going to try to just pray the same thing everyday and see what happens. But what will that prayer be? I think 1 Peter 1;22 is a good place to start. “Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.” (It just “happened’’ to be in my in-box this morning so I’ll take it.) I think the “truth” is that we can put our hope and trust in God, not in our own ability to understand. The “truth” being that because God is really into our hearts, he hangs out there and does stuff even when we haven’t consciously asked for it.
I am reminded of a little story I imagined a while ago:
The image of a little boy mustering up the courage to ask another boy to sit with him at lunch draws me in. I think about the way he lingers in the back of the line even though he loves to be first, he is waiting for the boy he loves. He loves his Spiderman shirts and his long floppy hair. When the cool boy cuts in front of him, he swallows and then asks, “Want to sit with me at lunch?” The other boy doesn’t even respond and the boy turns around in his spot in the back of the line and refuses to move forward until the teacher physically turns him around with a puff and huff. The moment his heart is broken goes unnoticed by everyone. Everyone but God and when that boy goes home and his mom asks how his day was, he will shrug his shoulders and walk away. He will not have the words to say. I imagine God still lingering in that crack, in that moment and working like a mother spider spinning her web quietly and patiently.
It is ok for this boy’s mother to ask that her son to be loved back. Always. Of course we want this for our children. But I guess the ticket is for the mother (or whoever and whatever the case may be) to always add, as if by some robotic, raging against the doubt and cynicism, to use the outcome for good, to protect her son’s heart from slamming its slippery little door shut.
I would love to hear any thoughts you have on prayer or insights on the verse in 1 Peter. Hopefully I don’t twist it and use it out of context for my own purposes. But I think, again, it’s mysterious what and how God uses to speak to us in a moment.