My prayers are with you.
I will keep you in my prayers.
You are in my thoughts and prayers.
There has been much written lately about these phrases. To some they are meaningless. To some they are shallow platitudes trotted out during times of heartbreak and disaster. We hear these phrases thrown out as a knee-jerk reaction. And I agree that saying these things without putting action – loving, compassionate, meaningful, result-driven action – behind them makes them just noise. And when they are repeated over and over again from people unwilling to do anything (especially people in positions to do something), they are not very meaningful and not in the least bit comforting. If I doubt their desire to truly help, I also doubt that they will follow up with those promised prayers.
And I believe in the power of prayer. When I tell you that I will pray for you, I try to stop right then and do it. And I try to remember to do it every time you come to my mind. I don’t want these words to be hollow. Sometimes I see that God has answered the prayer almost immediately. Then there are times when the answer must have been, “Wait….we’ll see.” I may not see the impact of the prayer right then, but later I will see the answer. And then there are those difficult times when there doesn’t seem to be an answer. Not now. Not next week. Not next year.
Garth Brooks had a hit with a song that said, “Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayers. Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs that just because he doesn’t answer, doesn’t mean he don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” I really like that song. I sing along every time I hear it. I understand what he’s singing about there. But I also question the title “Unanswered Prayers.” I think that all prayers are answered. They may not be answered in the way we like or with our dreamed-of outcome.
Joni Eareckson Tada has lived life from a wheelchair for the past 50 years after a diving accident when she was a teen. People have often asked her, or challenged God by asking her, if she had prayed to walk again. Of course she did. I loved her response when people asked her why God didn’t answer her prayer. She replied that He answered. He just said, “No.” She went on to say how much He was able to do through her because of her situation. It wasn’t what she wanted, but it was needed perhaps.
I had my dreams of what my life would be like. They were informed and encouraged by my 1950s childhood. Alas, Prince Charming never showed up – okay, in all candor, I wasn’t looking for him. I wanted Moon-Doggie from the Gidget movies – James Darren whisking me off my feet. And I did go out to dinner with him. Okay, so that sentence might be a little misleading. He was in town promoting a spaghetti sauce and I was included in a dinner invitation with my parents and some other grocery people. But he was right across the table from me. I will have you know that I did not embarrass myself by revealing that I had loved him enough way back when that I could have become his stalker. I did embarrass myself by telling him that as a kid I dreamed of being rich enough that I could watch movies in my house and be able to watch Gidget any time I wanted. (Remember this was before Netflix, before DVD, even before VCR when only the Hollywood elite could do such decadent things.) I had him autograph a $5 video from Walmart. So one of the wild dreams of my childhood came true…I guess I became that rich?
Eventually, I grew beyond those childhood dreams and really concentrated on what I wanted in life. I prayed about them. At one point I thought I saw all of those prayers being answered and dreams coming true. A husband. A home. A teaching career. A son. And then I watched them all coming apart. So I started the prayers all over again. Same desires – love, husband, a daughter to go with that son. And thus came my “unanswered prayers.” Or did it?
I’ve had conversations with people about the life I lead. I absolutely had some prayers where the answer was NO. But a lot of what I prayed for I got, but it didn’t always come in the way I had it pictured.
Did you ever see the movie version of Under the Tuscan Sun? (It has to be the movie version – not the book because they are very different.) Diane Lane’s character moves to Tuscany after a painful divorce. While looking for a new home, she tells her realtor that she wants to renovate this place and create a home where there will a wedding, a baby, family, and lots of love. At the end of the movie, he comments to her that she got everything she wanted. She’s a bit startled and then looks around. She is hosting the wedding of two young lovers who have become part of her life and turned to her for help along the way. A good friend from back in the US fled to Tuscany when she was suddenly single and expecting a baby. The friend gives birth in the Tuscan home, and both she and her baby are at the wedding. There is a family she has pieced together from the people in her life. There is love. And she smiles as she realizes the truth in what he said.
My life is like that. I have my blood relations who are actively involved in my life – my son, my granddaughter, my father, my sister, my nieces. But I have family beyond the blood one that I was given. I have people who love me. They are there for the good times and the bad. They look out for me as I do for them. We laugh and cry and share things. We’ve been true to, reliable for, and loving each other for many years.
I had many, many children who came under my wing for a season, often for a reason. Each year for 30 years I called over a hundred teenagers “my kids.” I cheered them on, disciplined them, guided them, fed them, taught them, worried for them, cried with them. I had long talks about being treated with respect, working for what you want, and their hopes and dreams…Oh yeah, and about literature and writing. I went to their weddings. And sadly to some of their funerals. Some have stayed and become part of my life. And there is the one who is the daughter I had prayed for. She’s blessed me with three more grandchildren.
I didn’t find that husband. It might be one of those prayers where God said that it wasn’t what I needed. That might be a not what I needed “yet” – a “wait for it” answer that could come in His time. Or not. But I am happy with my life as it is now. I know that I am a lucky woman to have such wonderful, giving people in my life. I was lucky to have worked in a career where I felt like what I was doing mattered, that maybe I was making a real difference in someone’s life. I have days of depression, at times debilitating depression, (as those of you who know me or have been reading the blog already know), but all-in-all I have a life that I am content with. Some days I need to be reminded, but God has answered and continues to answer many of my prayers. Robert Frost said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” I think that I would say it in six words. It goes on in God’s hands.
Want some reading on lives changed by prayer? Check these out as a start:
- Joni: An Unforgettable Story by Joni Eareckson Tada
- I Married Adventure by Luci Swindoll
- Gifted Hands by Dr. Ben Carson
- Christy by Catherine Marshall (This is a novel based on the author’s mother’s life.)
- The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning
- One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp
- Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
- The Magnolia Story by Joanna and Chip Gaines