Dear Lord, please be with Emily during her operation. Please be with her doctors, and nurses, and everybody connected with her operation, and see that it all goes perfectly well, and that Emily is completely healed.
That’s part of a prayer I said yesterday for the daughter of my dear friend Daren, who yesterday underwent some major orthopedic surgery. (Today she’s fine; the operation — a rare and tricky one — was a complete success.)
On most mornings my wife Catherine and I spend about fifteen minutes sitting together on our couch and saying our prayers. We begin with me saying aloud my personal prayers, wherein I pray for God to that day watch out for Cat; to protect her; to be with everyone at her job. I usually pray for God to bring peace to my father; I ask for his inspiration for my own work that day; and so on. Cat then says her personal prayers; one of us reads aloud a passage from the Bible (we’re just now reading John); we say the Lord’s Prayer together; and finally, for five or ten minutes, we silently meditate.
Then it’s back to regular life for us!
So why the prayers, really? Do I not trust God? Do I think my praying for Emily will help God to care more about what happens to her? Or do I think that God, hearing my prayer, went, “Holy cow! Emily’s operation is today! I thought it was next week! Good thing ol’ John there said something. Otherwise, right at a critical moment in the operation, I think Emily’s surgeon was gonna sneeze.”
You know? Like, does my praying actually help anything in the world go better?
The answer to that question is that I have no idea. Which is great, because I also don’t care about the answer to that question. What can I possibly know about God’s plans? And who am I, to think I might influence them?
I’m pretty arrogant. But I’m not quite that arrogant.
I don’t pray to increase God’s efficacy. I pray because I want to know that I’ve done everything I can to bring God’s love and healing grace into the life of the person for whom I’m praying. And except for physically doing something to directly impact whatever’s happening with that person — e.g., in Emily’s case … well … staying out of the operating room, or, in the case of protecting Cat, hovering around her all day with a gun, Secret Service style — praying for a person is the most I can do for that person.
If I take time out of my life, and sit down, and close my eyes, and wait until I have that special, other-worldly feeling that comes with the presence of God and his Holy Spirit, and then, immersed in that place, basically beg God on behalf of someone else, I come away from that experience knowing (or, for you skeptics out there, feeling) that something magical and critical has taken place about something that I care very much about.
I was with God. And God and I met about that person. And in so doing, I showed God how, when I really care about something or someone, the first and most important thing I do is come to him. I trust him. I want him to help. I want him to do the impossible. I want him to heal, reward, protect, enhance, right, bless.
I want God to execute the miracles I can barely begin to imagine.
And I know he will do that; I know that’s all he ever does.
I know that God’s will will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
And so I dare to ask for some of that will to bend my way. I ask God to intervene on behalf of the ones I love.
Emily’s operation was a success. Did my praying for her having anything to do with that? I have no idea. But what I do know is that when I prayed to God for her protection, I could not, humanly, on this earth, have loved her any more.
See also “What is Prayer?”
Next time I’ll write a few words on the weirdness of knowing that, whenever I tell anyone I’m a Christian, they automatically ascribe to me a whole host (so to speak) of beliefs I don’t hold at all.