I often feel a pretty incredible sense of guilt when it comes to my faith. In a large part it comes from my overactive mind, constantly knotted up in worry that I am not good enough, and I am not deserving of the love I receive, from God or otherwise. I regularly chastise myself for not being all I need to be and not doing all that I need to do, and my prayers fall flat and repetitive.
I’ve always hated that. Repetitive prayer. When I was a little guy, I would say a prayer over dinner every night, and it was always the same. I can’t remember it verbatim now, but I always asked for our food to be blessed, my family to be well, and my friends to have blessings. Every day, twice a day, even. At dinner once and then another time just before bed.
I’ve lately fallen back into that habit.
I’ve become increasingly anxious as I’ve grown older as well, and I’ve really been struggling with what feels like inconsistency within myself, regarding my relationship with Christ and the way I live my life. When I pray now, I begin by admitting that I am undeserving, and I’ve fallen into a habit of it.
So the other day, when my mom texted me late at night to tell me that her dog had fallen down the stairs and hurt himself badly, I did what I always do in the face of tragedy.
I prayed. It was something like this…
“Hey God, I know I’m really shitty at communicating, and I know that I haven’t been around as much as I should be. But that dog means everything to my mom. So please, please, please keep him around. Don’t let that boy die.”
I used to try to make bargains with God, tell Him I’d do whatever he asked of me if he would just grant my request. It was around that time that I found Blue Like Jazz, a novel by Donald Miller. Which changed the way I prayed forever. There’s a passage in it about praying like god is a slot machine, and how we pray like all of our good deeds save up and God will just answer whatever prayer we have.
That’s not how it works.
Still, I’ve begun to pray that way again, but now I think I do far less good than I used to. I’ve grown selfish and stone-hearted to so many things. So, if my God was a slot machine, I wouldn’t have too many coins to barter for blessings with.
I went to bed that night after praying for my mom’s dog, thinking about how silly it was to pray for a dog when there was so much else I could be praying for.
Society has this really powerful effect on us, and despite all of the people saying that “your pain is valid.” We should still be focused on things that have nothing to do with us. It’s a juxtaposition.
“Why are you worried about bad tasting tap water when Flint, MI is literally funneling sewage through their sinks?”
“Flint, MI is a big problem, but you can’t help them if you aren’t hydrated. It’s okay to be a little selfish.”
I’m using this, of course, as a massive hyperbole. (It’s the internet today, I feel as though I need to make sure I’m clear about it.)
So I woke up the following morning to go help take my momma’s boy to the vet, thinking how silly it was still, that I was praying for a dog. He was a part of the family, but he was a dog. I prayed as hard for him as I would have for my family. I was frustrated because something about that felt wrong to me.
When we picked him up and took him to the vet, stood out in the cold with him while he laid in the back of my dad’s truck unable to stand, I worried. I worried a lot. Due to the way he fell, there was a good likelihood that he could have broken his back. My dad was trying to prepare my girlfriend and I for the possibility of having to put him down yesterday, and I wasn’t ready.
So I prayed.
Knee jerk prayers that I just sputtered out, without direction, without sense. I just screamed in my head.
“Please save my mom’s dog.”
I didn’t address it like a letter. There was no “Dear Lord” to begin the prayer and let God know I was requesting His attention. There was no Amen to be a bracket, separating my prayers from my regularly foul mouth. It was a silent scream to the Heavens, hoping that God could find it and take it and make it something.
While we waited, I returned home and worked on a story, having a hard time focusing. I took a break to browse Twitter and came across a minister I follow retweet a quote from Max Lucado that I needed to hear right at that moment.
“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.”
It cracked whatever anxious feeling that I had been nesting all day, and I almost started to weep.
A few hours later, my dad called me and told me we needed to go pick up the dog. Suddenly that anxiety came back in an overwhelming wave.
“What if he is just bringing us there to support mom because we did have to put him down?”
“What if mom lost her boy today?”
I drove to the vet as calm as I could, worried out of my mind the whole time as we passed through traffic, and I spoke with my girlfriend about prayer a bit.
Of course, I didn’t mention my own anxiety and my own self-doubt, especially when it comes to my prayers as of late. I know inside I haven’t been as good as I could be, but who would bring that up in a public place?
When we arrived, our pup was just fine. The vet explained that he had torn a muscle due to his weight, and otherwise he was a healthy pup. He didn’t have arthritis, his thyroid and kidneys were fine, and we were allowed to take him home.
The familiar calm of answered prayer washed over me. Momma’s boy was going to be okay, we just needed to walk him a bit more and give him some medicine.
We went back to their house and had dinner, we talked, and later that night I shared my thoughts with my mother about the whole concept of prayer.
I had felt so bad about praying for this dog, when there were living people out in the world who were hurting. Who are hurting. I felt terrible because it seemed so selfish for me to say “let me have this.” When so many people need so much more.
But as we spoke, I realized something powerful.
My mom had felt the same way, and as she prayed last night she prayed much like I had. Knowing that she doesn’t pray as much as she should, knowing that she isn’t in the presence of God as often as she should, but she was praying for God to heal her boy, to bring him home safe, because she wasn’t ready to lose him.
As she talked and explained that she felt this calming come over her, it occurred to her that it was exactly the kind of thing that God wants us to pray for.
He gave us the opportunity to have Weechee, and we love the pup. He knows that, and in this wave of anxiety and fear, we both forgot something important. God loves us so much, and cares for us to a great extent, and that care includes the things we love. He wants for us to have the best, and when he gives us blessings, our prayers for them are not silly.
They are rejoiced.
Weechee isn’t just a dog, he is a gift from God.
A God who loves us so much that he was sure to keep Weechee safe as he fell, leaving him with minimal damage in an event that could have paralyzed or killed him.
I felt humbled.
I felt sorrow.
I felt overwhelming love when I looked at our boy last night.
Because he is a symbol to me know, of how much my God loves me.
So often I worry that my prayers aren’t good enough, because I make them out to be a to-do sheet that I hand the Creator of the Universe, but that isn’t what I mean by them, and He knows that.
That’s good enough for me.
Thank you so much for reading today, I hope it reached you in a place you needed it to. ❤
Have you ever felt like your prayers are hollow and unfulfilled? Chances are, you aren’t alone. As a matter of fact, I know you aren’t. But your prayers are always heard, and always matter to the One hearing them.
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Until next time. ❤
Life is not meant to be awful.
Categories: Umbral Dawning