I’ve been thinking about prayer this weekend, for a couple of reasons. First, because as I was walking down an empty hallway at school last week I whispered a prayer. An honest to goodness, beginning to ending prayer, professed in the manner with which I was raised. And second, because I’m sick again this weekend. When I’m coming down with some kind of infection, my first clue is everything becomes impossible. Emotions swamp me and next thing I know I’m hiding in my bathroom crying my eyes out because everything I do is hopeless and I will never touch my dreams.
As some of you may have heard, I have a new book available on Amazon. I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to tweak a beautiful cover I purchased to satisfy Amazon. I still haven’t managed it. I’ve kept telling myself I’m not going to blog about it till I have it just so. Thus, partway through the week I found myself fighting tears of frustration while walking down an empty hallway and I tripped and fell headfirst into my childhood. The prayer was short and fervent, after which I straightened my big girl panties and got on with my job. That was that.
By Friday night I was a quivering soggy mess, hiding in my bathroom. Cursing myself for being so foolish as to even whisper the words, heartbroken with loneliness and swearing up and down that I am finished tutoring the sweetest kid on the planet because for the life of her she cannot stop sneezing, coughing and blowing her nose as we crouch over books together in 6X6 room. I mean, the poor kid has been sick since Christmas and my immune system is in full rebellion.
So, what does this have to do with prayer?
I’ve learned not to pray and it bothers me greatly that sometimes I slip up and beg for a miracle. I was raised saying personal prayers twice a day, family prayers twice a day, prayers at mealtimes (yes, all three), and was encouraged daily to pray for others, for their health, for their safety, for their blessings. I even knew a girl in high school who prayed before she bought a pair of shoes, unwilling to make even that simple choice without guidance. Just to be clear, back then at the height of my religious practice, I thought she was a nitwit.
What happened? Well, no one thing, that I know for sure.
Life wore me down, blessings were few and far between at a time I was working harder than I ever had to be worthy, and still the water was closing over my head. It was about this time that my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. I redoubled my prayerful efforts. I fasted, I donated more time to my church, I laid awake at night crying and praying. I honestly say, I have never offered myself in any more heartfelt manner.
It took a year or so before I realized I couldn’t continue in that manner and survive. A year after that, I finally realized that I was not making any difference, but I was making myself crazy.
I haven’t prayed since. No, not once, until earlier this week. Today as I laid in bed, willing myself to be better by Monday, I wondered, was it the impending illness, the stress of trying to get the paperback ready, the grind of my current personal situation…what brought me back to that childlike place where words we utter into the air, magically bring about miracles? Yes, no doubt the perfect storm of all of the above.
The reason I write about it here, is for my own clarity. I write it down here because I’ve never said out loud that if prayer couldn’t be bothered to save my mom, a woman who never missed a chance to pray, and I mean pray like there is no tomorrow for fifteen or twenty minutes while her children passed out from starvation around her…, what chance do I have, me with my wilful temperament, my carnal heart and selfish dreams.How dare I attempt to fool myself into thinking all is well, by whispering a few words to the sky? If the most devout can pray for years and fail, then what does prayer really mean? What good is a prayer uttered by the wicked and the woefully impious?