A friend asked me personally to pray for him. He was facing a difficult time and so I did. He is a Christian and knows what he asked for so I granted his request. He asked me to pray for an ailing family member and for his family in relation to that.
The person that I prayed for died. I’m ok with that. I didn’t know her and I didn’t pray for God to save her life. I prayed that God’s Will be done. That is what he asked for and is what he meant. When he told me that this person had passed the conversation was short. He told me and I replied, “Gods Will. What can I do to help”. That was, I hope, a comfort to him. It is brief but we are both strong enough to know the whole conversation that lives behind it. I know that he knows what it meant and he knows that I know. There was no reason for a long conversation. Me explaining it to him would have been an insult. It was unnecessary.
Prayer, for me, is a private matter. Very private. In almost all instances I will refuse to pray publicly and am offended when asked to do so. That’s a bit of a departure from my Southern Baptist upbringing but not by much. In our church growing up the right to pray before the church was reserved for the pastor. On very rare occasions he would ask another to say a prayer during service. These were always older men who had been in the congregation for many many years. I held them in awe (and still do) because they were Godly men. Not “good” people. Not merely Christian but Godly men. I am not those men. Not even close.
There are a few people… very few… that I will allow to say a blessing over food at my house. A prayer is a conversation between the person praying and God. That sounds small so I will say it again. It is a conversation with GOD. With THE GOD. God who holds the power of life and death, the power of eternity, the power of salvation and damnation. That God. A prayer isn’t a neat little ditty to be belted out by children without meaning. It isn’t a chance to present yourself as a faithful before a meal. It is a conversation with God. That said, there is nothing more pure. Nothing more right than listening to a child pray. Rob’s kids are often allowed to say a blessing before a meal at my home. It’s the way he has raised them and what he believes. They do it reverently and with feeling. There is nothing more pure than that. Nothing.
I realize that those two ideas don’t necessarily connect. Robs faith and mine are different. He teaches his children his beliefs and he does it correctly. It is a joy to listen to them pray.
But to me, prayer is more than that. When you have truly prayed you kneel before god because your knees are too weak to bear your weight. You clasp your hands before you to stop them from trembling with fear and you bow your head in shame and reverence. You close your eyes to hold back the tears. You speak your heart to the God who who already knows it. Then you have prayed. Then you have spoken to God.
I often hear people say, “we’re praying for you” and I wonder… are you? I hear people say, “thank God!” and wonder… do you?
There are those who I know pray every day. They even, I know, do it properly. I can’t. I should but there’s a lot of fear and pain and love built into it that I can’t deal with on a daily basis. It’s an emotional rinse cycle that I can’t bear. Maybe that’s wrong. I know that I should pray more often than I do but one can only hope that doing it right counts for some little something.
When I feel the need to ask someone to pray for me there are only a very few people that I would ask to do it. Only four or five that I know WILL actually do it and only two or three that I know will do it properly. It’s good to know those three or four.