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?

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19 Comments

  1. Selwyn aka Kellie

    June 3, 2011

    Oh Catherine, I’m so sorry about your loss. Thank you for sharing it, and with such grace and eloquence.

    Prayer is emotional ballast and breakfast for me – I can’t start the day (or finish my day) without it. Prayer has hauled me through the past three years in particular, helping me survive situations I never wanted to encounter, let alone live through. The prayers of others have been like layers and thicknesses of hug soft protection, reducing the damage I’ve received from the spikiness of life. I feel the power when I pray for others, laying my own concern and love for them like a warm shawl across their shoulders, regardless of how far away I actually am from them. (And isn’t the inconsequentialness of distance a relief in prayer?!)

    Where I am right now is directly related to the power of prayer – both my own and others on my behalf. I see prayer as a path I’m walking along on my way back Home – sometimes it’s stepping on beautiful pavers regularly spaced, sometimes it’s a constant groove in a dangerous, rocky landscape, other times a flickering light in the middle of a howling storm, sometimes it’s a beautiful space where I can rest and catch my breath or a vital handhold in the cliff-face of disaster – there’s always a path, as long as I choose to see and follow it.

    Thank you for the chance to ponder!

  2. Jennifer

    June 3, 2011

    So beautiful! So eloquently written! Thank you for sharing this.

  3. dalene

    June 3, 2011

    Catherine–So sorry for your loss. I will add a thread for you.

    What beautiful imagery. Prayer is complicated for me. I’m not good at it. I feel the threads I send up–even the most heartfelt–are weak. But I have been so blessed by those of others. My family has been blessed with miracles by the prayers of others–so I know of both their realness and their magnificent strength.

    Thank you for this post. I too will ponder.

  4. Kristin

    June 3, 2011

    Last summer we went on our every other year cross country trek to visit the family. We live in Chicago, with my husband’s family primarily in UT and mine primarily in CA.

    I had the brilliant idea to extend the trip with the kids and I by having my husband fly out of John Wayne in So Cal, with me driving the five children, ages almost 2-9.5, from So Cal, to Nor Cal, to Salt Lake to Denver to meet him 11 days later.

    Though I don’t regret the choice, it was really hard. I had not had a particularly great history as a strong long distance driver which didn’t help.

    Yet for the first time in my life I literally felt the prayers of others pleading for our safety, the function of our vehicle, and my ability to drive us and manage us. It was so sweet and powerful and unforgetable.

    Thanks for this post.

  5. Rosalyn

    June 3, 2011

    Catherine–I’m so sorry for your loss. Having also been through this, I know how hard it can be. Oddly enough, it was when I had my own miscarriage that I felt most strongly the power of others’ prayers on my behalf. Even though I felt pain, I also felt buoyed up by a strength outside of myself and I knew that other people were praying for me.

    Like Dalene, praying for others is something that I’m still not as good at as I would like to be, but I love your image of prayers as cords connecting us with heaven. I also find myself thinking of prayers as expressions of love (our love for each other; God’s love for us). Thank you for sharing this.

  6. traci

    June 3, 2011

    Amen and Amen.

  7. Aundrea

    June 3, 2011

    Beautiful. True. Inspiring.

    God bless you. My prayers are with you, too!

  8. Barb @ getupandplay

    June 3, 2011

    What a powerful post. Thank you for sharing. I, too, am so sorry for your loss. I’m so glad that you felt you could share it with your family so they could pray for you. I’m sure it was a blessing in their lives as well as yours. I have felt the power of prayer both in my behalf and as I pray for others. It is real.

  9. Catherine

    June 3, 2011

    Kellie, I love how you describe prayer. So many different and beautiful metaphors in your response! Prayer as something we take in–spiritual nourishment, something we offer and literally put on others as warmth and comfort, something that guides us–regularly and distantly, a source of rest, peace, and protection. Lovely.

    Dalene and Aundrea, Thank you for your prayer threads in my behalf.

    Kristin and Rosalyn, Thank you for sharing your own experiences. I think it’s interesting and wonderful that my soul recognized the need for others’ prayers and craved the feelings I’d felt before as a child and in other difficult experiences previously in my life when I’d been buttressed by the sweet strength of prayer, much like you’ve described.

  10. michelle

    June 3, 2011

    Catherine, I’m so sorry for your loss. I felt the power of prayer as I read your post, and will add my own prayers in your behalf. I think there is something about the asking for prayers that helps bind hearts and faith together in special ways. I admire your ability to help others know how to help you, and to give them the privilege of doing so.

    I recently experienced the blessing of such prayers. The best way I can describe the result is that I felt like I was existing in a protective bubble. I knew God was aware of me, and I felt so grateful for the prayers that were being offered in my behalf.

    I hope in the midst of your mourning, you can feel some of that same feeling of being upheld, or at least of being known…of divine and earthly awareness of your life right now.

  11. Emily M.

    June 3, 2011

    Catherine, I’m so sorry too. Miscarriage is a wrenching grief. I am with Rosalyn when I say that I did feel people praying for me then–I felt uplifted and comforted in an almost tangible way. I also felt that often on my mission.

    I love the image of prayer threads, binding us to each other and to God. Thank you.

  12. Kristin

    June 3, 2011

    Catherine…I was in such a hurry earlier than I neglected the most important part-to express my love and support for you in going through another miscarriage. I’m sure the sting is still felt, but pray that you will feel that uplifting comfort which comes through the spirit, often powered by prayer as you’ve so beautifully described.

  13. Ana of the Nine Kids

    June 3, 2011

    I am so sorry too.

  14. Catherine A.

    June 4, 2011

    I hugged his small frame tightly and whispered, “Always, always.”

    Oh Catherine. This was such a beautiful post. I am crushed for your loss. Lifted by the beauty of your life, your thoughts. Prayer connects us not only to God’s strength and new possibilities but to each other. Thank you for this. Tears and love for you.

  15. michelle

    June 5, 2011

    Catherine, I put your name on the temple roll today….

  16. Melissa M.

    June 5, 2011

    Catherine, chiming in late to say I love the image of prayers as threads woven into cords, binding us to God and to each other. Beautiful.

    I, too, am so sorry for your loss. I hope you feel comfort and peace and the love of all those praying for you–add my name to the list.

  17. catania

    June 6, 2011

    This was a beautiful post. Recently, I found out that my dad and stepmom (married for 21 years) are getting a divorce. I felt really horrible for my father – as she had been unfaithful. I know it took him by surprise. Anyways. I don’t want to hash out details, but the evening I found out about his trial, I prayed for him.

    My father is not LDS, and is not religious at all. It is a little saddening to pray for someone knowing that they aren’t accessing the miracle of prayer themselves. (I hope this makes sense). I knew and know he needed(s) my prayers, but in a way I felt powerless.

    However, I was overwhelmed by the idea that there are many – who have passed on – who are praying for him, me, and our entire family. Even though I am one of the only living members of the church, I remembered that our families and lives are eternal, and that, indeed, we are connected through prayer – not only across the nation and earth, but across the veil of death. It was completely comforting to me – to know that I am united with other family members and we are all praying together.

    Thanks again for your post, and I hope that you, too, can feel comfort and peace.

  18. Miranda

    June 9, 2011

    Prayer has been a great blessing in my life. There have been times when I felt like there was no one else to turn to. That there was no one else who had been through what I was going through, no one who could possible understand to the full extent what I was experiencing. It has been these times that I have been humble enough to turn to my Heavenly Father. It has been these times that I have experienced my greatest blessing of feeling my Heavenly Fathers and Saviors love for me.

    There have also been times in my life were I have felt the prayers of others. I remember knowing one time that a specific person was praying for me. It was a great comfort, and I felt there love.

    I am very blessed in my live to have great family and friends that help me continually. But, sometimes there is only one being who can give us the comfort we need, and that is our Heavenly Father.

  19. Sue

    June 17, 2011

    So sad to hear about your loss, and so glad that you reached out to those who love you.

    My son applied to medical school for 2011 and was put on a couple of waitlists but didn’t get any acceptances. He’s been in the process of getting his application prepared to start the 2012 cycle (ugh), and it is such a grueling ordeal. I was feeling sad for him and sorry that all his hard work and good grades had not paid off immediately, so I put his name in the temple and took to my knees yesterday. I sensed his emotional/spiritual weariness and prayed that all would be well with him. I’d been down there on my knees for a few minutes when my phone rang.

    It was him, telling me that he had just been accepted from the waitlist at his school of choice and would be starting there on August 5th. Coincidence? Maybe. But it felt like an answer to the culminating prayer of many prayers said in his behalf.

    =)

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