Those Crazy Prayers
Life has seemed nuts lately. Flooding in Houston, hurricanes in Florida, and various horrors around the globe. The small town I grew up in is currently on fire. I’ve lost count of my friends, family, and acquaintances who have been evacuated (at best) and lost everything at worst. Of course, worse has happened to some. Lives are being lost. Children dying.
People are suffering.
One thing that occurs when bad stuff happens is that people send their “thoughts and prayers.” They say they’ll pray for you. They send their love. They comment on social media.
Then, there comes rebuttal. Yes, even to sent prayers, there is sometimes argument.
I found a gem of negativity the other day that gets passed around whenever natural disaster strikes. It was a little mockery of prayer.
There are lots of versions of this, so I won’t share a specific one. There are pictures of a starving child, pointing out that “your prayers didn’t help them.” Jokes about someone’s deity. These comments aren’t my favorite.
I’m not talking about all the good things about those people who pray, even though those inclined to pray are more inclined to volunteer and donate and do real, hands-on work that improves lives.
I understand frustration with an ugly, unfair world and how powerless we can feel and how useless our small gestures can seem.
The desire to poke fun is natural, especially when we are scared, worried, and angry.
Today I watch planes and helicopters fly above my house, over and over again. They take water from the lake to dump on the fires. Every time I turn on the computer I learn of another friend who has lost everything.
I pray because there is sometimes nothing else I can do.
In truth, I try to do other things. I try to volunteer. I donate what money I can. I reach out to people.
But when people I know in Houston are suffering there isn’t much I can actually and immediately do for them. I am one person with limited power and the world is full of yuckiness.
So I pray.
I find it sad when people mock prayer. Even if you don’t think it works, which is somewhat understandable, there is no reason to hate something that many others find helpful.
Anger isn’t helpful. At all. I’ve tried it.
It isn’t a superior response to an uttered prayer or a declaration of prayers going out. It’s just anger. It does nothing except for make the angry person worse off.
Last year my dad got very sick. It happened quickly and it was frightening for all of his loved ones. We felt helpless because there wasn’t much we could do. Sure, you can talk to doctors, research stuff on the internet (usually the opposite of helpful) and seek out the best care. But that is where your power ends when catastrophic health problems rear their head.
People often told me that they were praying for my dad. I prayed for him. There were special prayers offered. There was fasting combined with prayer. This was all done.
The funny thing is that they worked. It wasn’t just that he got better. He did. It was a miracle. But you could attribute his survival to modern medicine, good luck, or natural selection. You could assume that the prayers had zero to do with the outcome. And maybe they did. I’ll even concede that point. (Though I’d disagree.) Maybe sometimes the outcome is decided without anyone consulting us.
I’ll tell you how the prayers worked, even if you think the did no healing.
I could feel them.
I could literally feel them. It was like I was being lifted up by something outside myself. It was a bizarre and sacred experience for me. It was something I have not experienced before, at least not on that level.
I was probably more stressed than I had ever previously been in my life and yet there was this light, this hope that defied explanation. I was a hot mess, but I was a hot mess with internal peace. I had a peace about the outcome; no matter what that outcome was.
You could mock this power that I felt. That is your privilege. I am glad it is your privilege.
But it was there and it helped me when there was nothing else that would help.
One of the scariest things about life is that we lack control.
We can make plans, good choices, fill bank accounts and eat right. Those things help. We should do them.
The deeper you get into life, the more you realize how those plans can change.
A fire can start with bolt of lightning. It can move with a shift of the wind. Men can fight it with all their machines and experience. Rain can end it just by showing up briefly.
A healthy person can suddenly be sick, or even dead, in the blink of an eye. We can’t always choose our health, our life, our end.
It’s scary to have our lack of power thrown in our face. Humans don’t like it.
This reminder makes us angry. Sometimes it makes us humble. It’s up to us what our lack of power does to us. How we “deal” is all we have left. Prayer is one way to deal.
I believe that this is one of the reasons people pray. It is a plea to a higher power on our behalf. Sometimes we ask for what we want. Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don’t.
Prayer however is more than just a plea, a request for favor. It’s comfort when there is no comfort. It’s a desire for help and love when there is nothing else we can do but express that.
Prayer is power when we have none.
Just like I felt those prayers when nobody could do anything for my father, I hope that those who suffer can feel my prayers when there is nothing I can do for their situation.
I can’t make a house magically re-appear that has burnt to the ground.
I can’t heal a broken body.
I can’t lift emotional pain with a warm meal or even millions of dollars.
Sometimes prayer is all we have left.
Sometimes it’s all we can give.
Prayer it is a good gift.
It helped me when nothing else could be done. Not because it fixed the outcome, but because it gave me strength beyond my own to handle whatever happened. It also let me know that people cared, even if they couldn’t fix it.
I am grateful for people who pray. I am doubly grateful because I know that those same people are quite likely to get up off their knees and get to work.
So thanks. Thanks for your prayers. Thanks for your thoughts and your love.
Even these tiny gestures have great power.
Photo credit: Foter.com