For a moment I wonder if we could set aside the debate that always divides rather than connects—the debate over who or what we pray to, his or her name, or even their existence. This post is about my conversation, cries, shouts, . . . yes prayer, in the privacy of my own heart with something bigger than me. It is said that prayer changes things . . . personally, I have a complicated relationship with prayer but in times of change I pray because I need help changing. I don’t know about you but I’ve been feeling out of sorts lately. I feel like I’m shuffling instead of walking. I feel like I’m moving in circles. I’m waiting and worrying that I’m wasting time waiting. I don’t think I’m alone. I think many of us are in the midst of change.
Anne Lamott, one of my heroes, in her book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, suggests these three prayers in difficult times.
I was awake but hadn’t crawled out of bed when my cell phone rang. I was at home in Wisconsin for our family reunion. It was a beautiful yet fragile time together—life’s clock is always working but sometimes I am more aware of the tick tock. The voice at the other end of the phone was my dad, calling from the nursing home.
“I’ve got a problem. I think my bag (colostomy bag) has failed and I’m afraid of getting out of bed and making a bigger mess. Can you come and change it for me?”
My immediate thought was incredulous;You’re in a nursing home—use the call button and call a nurse!
But in his call for help I also heard the unexpressed context for his request—he was not able to be in his own home even when his family was, there was a “for sale” sign on the front lawn, the day before he wasn’t feeling well enough to join us in a visit to the farm that his grandfather homesteaded and my dad grew up on—who knows when/if he might be able to visit again. So I let go of my resistance, climbed out of bed, and put on my big boy pants. Something I can’t really explain happened during the drive to the nursing home. When I walked into my parents’ room, I felt like I was entering a sacred space. Yes, it was an unpleasant task but there was also grace in this request for help. There was healing in the space between my dad lying prone and vulnerable and me.
The help prayer is so hard to pray, it usually happens when I’ve fallen and can’t get up, but once I utter my surrender, I often feel the tears of grace.
One of my other heroes, Maya Angelou, demonstrated the thanks prayer best. Some of you may have seen this but attached is a video of one of Maya’s visits to my church. If you don’t have time to watch the full video, check out the first couple minutes. It’s a thanksgiving that overflows and is contagious. (The video is a “few” years old—before I started dying my hair gray. Ha! I’m in the top left corner with the smile that came from being in the presence of Maya's incandescent and ineffable light).
Daily Bites and Blessings
Welcome to "Daily Bites and Blessings." Pull up a chair. I’ve set a place for you at the table. These edibles are sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and often they are both. This is a come as you are party. I invite you to bring your compassion, courage, and curiosity as we dine together on life's bounty. May our time together give us more light and more love.