I know many people, which is what happens when you grow up and live in the same town your parents were born in and grew up and your grandparents spent the majority of their lives. I know people who would never skip a church service, people who only go to church on Christmas and Easter, people who don’t go to church at all, and people who don’t associate themselves with organized religion even a little bit. I have friends from each of these categories, too.
Prayer has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve become hyper-aware of prayer-based posts in my social media news feed. Mostly, ones like this:
“Prayer works! Because of your prayers, God has healed my (insert family member or friend here) of (insert illness here).”
“We can do this! Please use the power of prayer to heal (insert name here).”
You guys, it bothers me.
Prayer doesn’t bother me. For the love of God (pun totally intended. see what i did there?) please pray. Pray for people who are sick, pray for people having a rough go of it and pray that I have a rocking body by summer time. Maybe a little more for the important things, but a little extra prayer doesn’t hurt, right?
What bothers me is this: it’s my personal belief that we have a God who doesn’t reward people for prayer. I don’t believe He would heal a 56 year old man with Leukemia more quickly or fully because he had 1000 people praying for him than He would heal a small child with Leukemia who only had 900 people praying for him. I don’t believe that the more people pray for someone, the more likely God will be to heal them. What might you say to the mama of that child who died? “Too bad you didn’t have more people praying for him…we had 1000 people praying for _____ and he was healed.” Doubt it. Life is tricky and it’s full of things we don’t understand.
Sometimes, doctors are really good at their jobs. Sometimes, people get really unlucky with their bodies and shitty cancer and crappy illness and sometimes prayer doesn’t just heal people like a wish from a genie’s bottle.
But I know that prayer is comforting to people. And that praying for healing is important as well as needed for many people. I know that while the act of prayer doesn’t heal like magic, it also doesn’t hurt. I also know that prayer comes from many different people, in many different acts.
I think prayer is a million different things.
I don’t pray at night before bed and I don’t make my kids pray, either. I don’t make them memorize bible verses (walk the walk, don’t talk the talk), and there isn’t a time set up specifically for hands-together-bowed-heads prayer.
Jamie is going through First Communion prep right now. Yep, the kid who has given sacrifices to Zeus (it was a 1/2 eaten peanut butter sandwich), who says he doesn’t like God or Jesus, and who is creeped out by the crucifix at church. He pretends to sleep in Mass and during the responses, he moves his mouth in jibberish motions which gets him an evil eye from me. Yep, that kid is receiving First Communion this year. (But let me say that he loves the classes. Maybe there’s hope for his little Greek God loving soul). The first class for prep was a parent meeting with our parish priest. One thing he said struck a chord with me. He said that prayer can be many different things.
I always knew this, but kind of felt it was just me making myself feel better for not praying. Hearing him say it out loud was reassuring and it was nice.
So what does our prayer look like?
It looks like a lit Virgen de Guadalupe candle in my bedroom to serve as a constant reminder. I light it each morning with a specific thought in mind. Most recently, it’s been my parents in Seattle for my dad’s Lymphoma treatment. I don’t light it with the expectation that God will see the candle and heal my dad. I light it as a reminder that they are going through a hard time and that I can be with them in some way…like quiet thoughts here and there.
It looks like the moment between school work and chores that Maria quietly rocks Francesca and coos to her, trying to comfort her when she’s crying. It’s selflessly giving of yourself.
It looks like Jamie beaming from ear to ear on his way into the car from school, excited to show me his research paper. And then me telling him how proud I am of him. It’s showing others you care.
It looks like Danny spending the day alone snowboarding. Quietly doing his thing, taking in his favorite place in the world – the mountain and the snow. It’s appreciating what you have been given.
It looks like the thank you cards I have stockpiled on my front table, waiting to go out (yes, way too late!) to our lovely friends who have sent us flowers and gifts and well wishes on our sweetest Franci babe. It’s showing people you are grateful for them.
I know that it also looks like the memorized bible verses and the bedtime prayers and the bowed-heads-hands-together. I know that. I also know that it can look like a million other things. And that they are all equally heard and equally important.
And that my summertime bod needs all the help it can get. So pray away.