Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Gently, she made me repeat every word she said: “God is kind, God is loving, God is faithful. God is merciful.” She continued on, describing other characteristics of God. I admit it. In my pain and confusion, some of the words stuck in my throat. Then, she started over again ... having me repeat her words a second time. By the time I went through the list the second time, I had flashbacks of the many moments in my life when I believed those descriptions deep in my heart.
I needed the reminder. My understanding of who God is and how he responds to me has been shaken.
“I believe in the God everyone else prays to on my behalf and for my family,” I confessed to a close friend months ago. “But I’m struggling to believe in the God I pray to because it seems like he doesn’t answer my prayers.”
It’s true. I feel lifted up and sustained by the prayers of others. I have since the loss of my daughter. So I know God is still there and is wrapping his arms around me. But I feel like the pouty student in the corner who keeps raising her hand, waving it frantically in the air, but doesn’t get called on. I feel like the so-called middle child, wanting desperately to be heard but feeling dreadfully ignored.
Years of prayers, probably tens of thousands of them or maybe hundreds of thousands, weren’t answered the way I hoped or ever imagined. So, I’m bewildered by the events that came instead. It makes me almost afraid to pray sometimes. How will he answer me next time?
A second friend called and said she wanted to take me someplace — she was mysterious and avoided answering my inquiry about where we were headed. She brought me to the prayer room at her church and prayed as I knelt at a bench. “I pray over people like this usually only when they ask me to,” she told me, “but my daughter said, ‘Mom, I’m asking you. Pray for Jaletta.’ ”
Both of these women are “prayer warriors,” the kind of pray-ers who seem to have a direct line, who appear to have God on speed dial, who appear to be heard at a greater volume than some of us. They called on me without knowing each other, unaware that God was alerting an army of pray-ers, all of them marching on behalf of my hurting heart.
“I can pray for other people,” I told a third prayer warrior I rely on, “but I feel like my prayers for me and my immediate family aren’t heard. God hears the prayer warriors in my life instead of me.”
“That’s very common,” said Prayer Warrior No. 3. “It’s true for prayer warriors, as well. It’s like they can’t pray for themselves. It keeps you humble and dependent on him. Sweetly broken.”
That made sense to me. Even prayer warriors could let it go to their head, I suppose. So, too, for us regular folk.
“Imagine,” Prayer Warrior No. 3 added, “what it’s like when you are sitting in chronic pain and someone comes to you and asks for healing and they are healed ... and you are still hurting. Like Paul, with his thorn in his flesh.”
“I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,” wrote Paul to the Corinthians. “Even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.”
Whatever it was, it sounds like even Paul couldn’t pray it away. He didn’t get the answer he wanted either. But God listened to him in other ways.
I have felt like the prayers for my family are powerless, rather than potent. I feel uncertain about what words to even utter. But “the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words,” Paul told the Romans.
I’ve been receiving GriefShare Daily emails for almost a year now. I started them late but it wasn’t the first time the right one showed up on the right day. I had to smile when Day 321 arrived, titled: “You Need Others.”
“How many people are praying for you regularly? You need other people, and you especially need their prayers. Barbara Johnson (Christian author and speaker) says, ‘Right when you’re down in the middle of the pain and you’re going through this, that’s when you have to say, ‘Hey, I’m a Christian, but I’m really hurting. I need you to pray for me, and I need you to love me because right now I’m not effective as a Christian. I just can’t be bubbling out about how joyful I am. I will in time, but right now I need you to comfort me and I need God’s love to comfort me."”
I trust I’ve received that comfort because I’ve been prayed through some of the worst of it. I’ve shared this before, but it’s fitting to repeat it now: I know what it is like to walk away from God and I can’t even picture doing that again. So despite my intermittent confusion with God and my feelings of not being heard, I’m not going anywhere. And, I still believe, neither is he.
Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family, and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.