The Purpose of Prayer

Prayer is something we as Christians take for granted as part and parcel of our life and calling, but it is something really of an enigma for most of us. You see, we are told that we can ask anything in Jesus’ name and it will be given to us. But when we ask, we so often find that there is no response. We sense quiet from God. Maybe even an absence.

Prayer can seem like a wasted moment at best- a farce at worst.

I am in the kitchen watching my Mom make us coffee when she casually mentions that she and a mutual friend (living at a distance from her for every year she has known her) have prayed for each others’ children, as part of a promise to one another made many years earlier. The fact that I have been prayed for by a woman who has not really known me (and who has largely just heard of me through stories told of me by my own mother) is all quite humbling. I have been thought of and mentioned in the presence of God, before His face- by someone who considers my life to be of value enough to pray for me daily. Incredibly touching.

In fact, Mom tells me that this friend has been praying for her five children (and vice versa) since we were all knee-high to a grasshopper. That is a long time to pray, as I am now 40 and no longer a child. I marvel at the commitment this kind of prayer practice takes- to pray for your friend’s children year after year after year, and I think about this a bit before I find myself heading to beat the rush to the shower. As I continue to get ready for the day, I am struck by the fact that I do not pray as vigilantly for my own four children, let alone anyone elses’ (for that matter), as do these two women. They are amazing prayer warriors. In fact, when I consider my personal belief in the power of prayer, I find myself coming up short. I have to ask myself: do I believe that prayer works? And that it can impact lives?
Do I really think prayer changes things?

As I am thinking, I begin to reflect on some recent changes in my life and how these changes have made a major impact on the relationships I hold the closest. In fact, I think of marriage and my relationship to Husband and how our whole married life has been a struggle to find common ground. I consider the fact that marriage has never come easy to either one of us and that we have too many times wondered if marriage was really the right decision for us as a couple. I think about the times we both hit rock bottom, wondering if we would ever find ourselves rising to the surface again. I think of the despair.

And while I am thinking, I consider my own life- the dreams and hopes and aspirations. I think about the ‘would have beens’, the ‘could have beens’- the seemingly missed opportunities. The regrets.

I think about the struggle I have had in finding and nurturing my passion.
I think about how hard parenting has been.
I think about relationships and how difficult they sometimes can be.
I think about my struggle with depression and loneliness- my insecurities and anxiety.

And I think, as I contemplate my life in a nutshell- all while standing there in the shower- I think about two women praying for me. Daily. Consistently. Without fail.

Has the hope I have sensed of late been a long-time answer to an unmet prayer humbly offered by two faithful praying women?
I cannot help but surmise that it wasn’t answers they sought, trophies they pursued: it was hope they were after. Believing that their faith would be honored, knowing that the regularity in which they petitioned their Savior would not return to them void. And all because two praying women believed.

Faith is believing.
Not just in what we hope for- but in what our wildest hopes could never even imagine.
Faith is knowing.
Not just what we think might be true- but what we can hardly even envisage might be possible.
Faith is trusting.
Not just in what seems like a sure bet- but in what feels unattainable.
Faith is expectant.
Already trusting that what is about to unfold is carefully being held in God’s faithful, loving Hands. It has already happened in God’s eyes. We just need to trust.

When relationships are built on believing conviction like this, it no longer matters what we are asking from the One involved in this dynamic- what matters is Who we are asking. The crux of prayer is: Who we are praying to. Who is listening? And Who can meet the need? I really think the point of prayer is not to see a wish-list/bucket list of wants and desires granted, as if God were some Fairy God-father, but rather it is there to grow us in relationship. Closer to Him. Closer to each other.

Prayer is our connection to God. And it strengthens our connections to one another.

It’s the point of prayer- to draw us close.

As I stand there in the shower, on yet another Good Friday morning (two more days until Easter and the hope and promise it offers), I start to see that there is evidence that Someone is changing me, drawing me ever closer to His Heart. Evidence that Someone loves me and wants me to love Him back. And evidence that Someone desires to know me- my needs and wants and fears and joys. Someone is reaching out to me- I just have to have faith to know He’s there. I just have to believe even as I reach out myself, through prayer.

And when I do, I sense that knowing- that understanding. God is there. He’s real. And prayer really works- maybe not for the self-serving intents of my own needs and wants, but certainly for the Higher Purpose of drawing me close to the One who’s got the whole world in His Hands.
Prayer works- if for nothing else than to change me from the inside out, and that is more than enough reason to choose to really pray, starting today.

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Offering gratitude

I remember the Christmas I was about seven or eight years old. I wanted a Cabbage Patch doll. It was all I really wanted that year, to be honest. I had made that much clear to anyone who was listening (Mom, Dad, Santa….God?). I think I dreamed about her, my doll: those chubby cheeks, that rag-doll yarn hair. Those two lumpy pig-tails tied with ribbons, along with the signature on her rounded derriere that guaranteed she was truly made by ‘the’ Xavier Roberts. To have a Cabbage Patch doll would have been to have a dream come true. An answer to prayer, even. (I am not sure if I prayed for her, my non-existent dollie- but to think that I might have makes total sense.)

So imagine my surprise when I opened my Christmas gift that year to find a beautiful china doll with porcelain skin staring back at me instead of a dimpled plastic one. This replacement other- this actual doll was a fine toy complete with dark, wavy hair, finely stitched Victorian dress and a velvety blue bonnet that just never would stay put on that her head. She was lovely, but she wasn’t a Cabbage Patch Kid.

I don’t remember feeling very thankful.

What I do remember was receiving that doll and the disappointment I felt. She was beautiful, elegant and far more of a classic in comparison to the trendy Cabbage Patch doll I craved. But she wasn’t what I asked for. I felt quietly disappointed about the whole thing.

Years later, I find myself still asking. Only this time, my requests aren’t as trivial and innocent.

“Please God, protect them…” “Please God, allow rest…” Please God bring healing…” “Please God, more time…” “Please God….please.” Sometimes the litany of request feels like a shopping list of needs that I rhyme off- with hopes that I will get everything on my list. But what if what I am asking for is no longer in stock? What if it is not available at this time? What if what I am asking for is something not the very best for me- nor the very best for those for whom I am requesting that certain something? What is best, anyway? Do I even know?

What if prayer was less a list of ‘please give…’ and more of an “I thank you…”? What would prayer be like then? Would it change?

Our lives are full of blessings. Some of those blessings come through rays of sunshine and hope. Some of the blessings come through tears and storm clouds. But through the joyous moments and through the difficult times, there are slices of time when light shines through and we see the absolute beauty in life. Yes, our lives are precious in all their complexity- even in the midst of absolute darkness and sorrow, beams of light will radiate.

These little moments for me can be seen as answers to prayer. True, these little blessings are not always the big ticket items on my proverbial prayer shopping list- sometimes they are just those little somethings I noticed out of the corner of my eye. The little things. Things like…

• A friend stopping by to say they are thinking of me
• A phone call just when I needed it
• A message, email or note
• A smile timed just right
• A hug
• A drive to Tim’s
• A rainbow
• My flowers blooming
• A found kitten

The little things in life are sometimes what bring the greatest joy in my darkest hour. They are what get me through.

I have been asking God for some pretty big-ticket items lately. I have a feeling a few of us might be in this same boat. But I wonder if we have sometimes forgotten how to pray gratitude into our prayers. To thank instead of ask. To offer gratitude.

To thank God for the gift of time- what a precious commodity that is. To thank God for the gift of memories- we have such precious recollections of the ones we love- even as we make new memories each and every day. To be grateful for each moment we’ve been given. Even for today. To just relish the very minutes we have right now and breathe a prayer of thanks for this priceless gift.

We are so blessed.

Our lives may seem complex, complicated, rushed, maddening, stressful, anxious and short. But viewed through a different lens, they can also be seen as beautiful, intricate, intense and precious. Our lives are a masterpiece- and this life is only the beginning.

For every breath we’ve been given, our grateful hearts say “thanks”.

Pray For Moncton, New Brunswick

“Can you stay with me until I fall asleep?” she asks trustingly. I kiss her baby cheeks and cuddle in close.

When disaster strikes, everyone is afraid. And while it is hard for us as adults to understand the travesty of it all, for children it is unthinkable. Hard to believe in hope when all you feel is fear. Children everywhere are scared- I cannot even imagine what terrors are being played out in the minds of those children directly affected by this tragedy. I cannot even fathom.

We are two short hours and a bridge away, but even with that safety net, there is fear. Tonight, my children are fighting sleep because they are afraid. And as one daughter said, “I never had something happen this close to me before in my life.” Even earlier in the evening, another daughter weathered a cramp in the side just to go for the walk that Husband and I take in the evenings to catch a bit of sun and fresh air. She didn’t want to be at home without an adult. And at bedtime tonight, there were a lot of questions. And many, many prayers. Lots more reassurances.

We have family in the triangle currently being cordoned off for the search effort. In talks with my Great Aunt this evening, her gentleman friend’s driveway was two over from the scene of one shocking tragedy last night. My Mom and Dad, traveling through the area yesterday, were on the very streets only three short hours earlier where the horror unfolded last evening. Second and third cousins warned by police to vacate the premises were thus unable to get down their streets to their homes. Little did they know that at that very moment, the unbelievable was happening.

This is real. And it is frightening.

And because it is real, it is hard to know what to say to the little ones who are fearful in my house tonight. We take comfort in knowing that there is one Wiser and Stronger than we are who holds the whole world in His loving hands. Who holds us together in those moments in life when we fall apart. Who has knowledge and understanding of all things and Who can keep us in His perfect peace as our mind’s are fixed on Him. But we are so frail and prone to our humanity; this is so real.

So close to home.

Pray for our men and women in uniform tonight. Our heroes. We are so grateful to the ones who put their own lives in harm’s way to protect the greater good. Pray for courage and for safety. Pray for a quick, swift end to this nightmare, a return once again to the peace we so often take for granted.

And may the Good and Right win out over the evil we have seen. An evil which some have tragically experienced.

And may justice prevail. As we know it will.

As we know it will.

‪#‎PrayForMoncton‬

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