Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What Do You Pray For?

So what do you pray for?  Do you pray for healing?  Do you pray for that miracle—the kind of which seemed so prevalent in the bible?  What DO you pray for?

I have heard something awful.  That someone I know—not well, but after all we’re all members of the human race, feeling joy, pain, sorrow—someone I know has received a medical diagnosis that is most likely not favorable.  The kind of medical diagnosis that generally means a family, a group of friends is condemned to watch a loved one die.   I can think of no greater horror, no greater pain.

What is the sense of it, God?  Really?  What is Your almighty plan here?

I, who believe that everything happens for the best, for a reason. That there is always a silver lining...  And a good Christian would console me with ‘and we may not ever understand the reason….’  Oh, please.  Whatever.  What consolation is that??

When my aunt Betsy was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), I simply couldn’t believe it.  What?  If there were ever a non-Catholic candidate for sainthood, it would be her.  She was much beloved by all; she was as good a person as ever walked this earth.  And I thought that surely, surely…if all the strong Christians she knew and who knew her gathered together in one place—for wherever two or more of us are gathered in His name, there He shall be also—that if they combined their Christian energy and lifted my good, good aunt up in prayer, then surely there would be a miracle.  But it did not happen.  And she died a long, slow death that was agonizing to watch.

My good and faithful uncle—her husband—did he pray for healing?  Did he believe that his God, his Lord would heal her?  And what of his faith now?

My brother lost his only son, two years old, a drowning victim.  The horror of burying your only child and all we can do is watch.  The rest of us hug our children near to us, grateful that the hand of fate saw fit to pass us by this time.  What was the sense in that?  I would say, eight years later to the date, that my brother is leading a happier life.  He and his wife got divorced.  He’s free, and happy, and leading a great life.  But at what price?  Given the choice, would he have chosen this happiness over that?

And I’m left to wonder what to pray for.  Do we tempt God like that?  Do we test Him?  For He also said, “Ask and ye shall receive.”  I would imagine that many people ask.  Many do pray for that miracle, are praying for it right now.  And why should God listen?  Many thousands of people praying for the same thing.  What makes my person, my loved one, any more important than anyone else’s, that my prayer should be answered above theirs?

And when we don’t get what we pray for, what then?  Where does our faith go?  I would imagine that tragedy, a broken heart, that sense of god-abandonment causes a good number of us to to fall away in disappointment, despair, disbelief. 

I know another story of a principal in IPS whose teenaged son was stabbed and killed in the cafeteria of the high school he attended.  And when this man was told that his child had been killed, he fell to his knees and thanked God for the years that he was able to spend with him. 

Now that is some amazing strength.  A strong faith.  As strength that I could only hope and pray  to find inside me in such a moment.  That I would find the strength inside to rejoice in what I had received, the joy already experienced, not in what I was losing.  A tough call.  A long and arduous road to walk.  The rest of your life, an empty place at the table, empty room, photos, the flotsam and jetsam of a life lived.

And so I will not ask.  I won’t test the Lord my God, my faith with yet another prayer for the healing miracle.  Instead, I will pray for strength for that family, for their journey on the road to the abyss ahead.  I will pray that they have a strong support group around them, that they cherish their days together, and draw comfort from each other, that they find it within themselves to keep moving, keep moving as they face the challenges, the shadows, the ordeal ahead, and they are able to find some diamonds to collect along that rough, rough road, and also, a rope to climb out when they're ready.  The miracle, maybe, lies in the fact that we are forced to go on.  And we do.  And we can.  We think we can't, but we can.  And we do.  Strength.  Lord, give them strength and what comfort you can spare.


  1. A deep and moving post.

    I don't pray FOR things, typically.

    I pray ABOUT things. Does that make sense?

    Ask and ye shall receive doesn't mean ask and I'll hook you up the way you want it.

    Life is what life is. Part of living is dying. To me, that isn't a God thing- it's a human thing.

    In those hard situations where life feels terribly hard and unfair, I pray about the family finding understanding, comfort, peace.