As a child, I loved listening to my dad pray. From an early age I could tell from the inflection and the cadence of his voice that he was really speaking to another person. As a result, despite insisting, as a teenager, that there was no such thing as knowing something spiritually, but that instead, people just believed, I still responded to my dad’s question before family prayer: “Does anyone have anything that you’d like us to pray for today?” I tossed my tests, my tennis matches, and my races into the family prayer pot, thinking that it couldn’t hurt and that, if my dad were praying, it would probably even help.
This past Mother’s Day, I woke to cramping and blood. I went into the dark bathroom and sobbed. I had been through this before and had no false hopes that bed rest or a few baby aspirin would right what felt so terribly wrong. My husband backed out of his meetings and took the kids to church while I lay on the bed with the TV on to distract me from the physical and emotional pain of loss. I reached for the phone to call my parents before remembering that they were in Europe and would be checking in via email only occasionally. The absence of their prayers weighed heavily on me. I felt a tangible need to know that somebody else was praying for me. My typical reaction to grief and difficulty is to keep it pressed close to my heart and away from the eyes of others, who may not understand or who may react differently than I want them to. But, in an uncharacteristic move, I put aside my need for privacy in favor of my need for prayers and I emailed my sadness to my sisters, my brothers, and my sisters-in-law, along with a request that they pray for me.
Swim team practices started two weeks ago here in Arizona. As a lover of lazy summer mornings, I have been late to jump on the swim team bandwagon, so this is my eight-year-old’s first year on the team. As a result, he is swimming with and against kids who’ve been doing this for two years. His sensitive and anxious soul has agonized over swim team these past two weeks. Despite my assurances that he can do hard things and my insistence that his speed does not matter to me, his speed matters to him and his confidence continually wavers. On Tuesday after swim team, he came to me in tears and asked if I would pray for him. I hugged his small frame tightly and whispered, “Always, always.”
My prayers since last Tuesday have been significantly more meaningful to me as I have pleaded to my Father on behalf of my son: Give him courage, give him comfort, give him perspective. In doing so, and in thinking of my family members across the nation doing the same for me, I have sensed the literal strength of prayer as a binding and unifying force. I imagine each prayer as another strand of thread in the cord that my children can, now and later, steady themselves with, just as I continue to do. I imagine these cords, consisting of numerous individual prayer threads, as a conduit of power that runs to the heavens and back to both parties—the object of the prayer and the one offering the prayer.
How have you been blessed by the power of prayer, both in the power that comes to you as you pray for others and in the power that comes as a recipient of others’ prayers? What metaphors do you use to think about or imagine the ways in which prayer acts in your life?