Faithful Living: Praying for people's understanding

I’ve got to pray for those kids! I thought one day this week when I stopped to talk to a group of high schoolers, standing in front of a store to ask for donations. Their friend and classmate had died just days before in a tragic car accident. Amidst their grief they thought it would be wonderful to purchase a memorial plaque to eventually be placed at the football stadium. Their friend loved playing high school football. They were certain the plaque would have greatly pleased him.

I thought it incredibly thoughtful and a wonderful way to channel the myriad of feelings that often package themselves with raw grief. To see those kids standing there, in the dark, damp and frigid wind asking for change, broke my heart for a few moments. How I wish we had the power to shield them from the heartbreak of death, untimely and now so personal to them.

Worse still was my shock to learn that some of the shoppers who walked past them chose to stop and condemn their fundraising. A few felt led to debate the adult chaperone. Others returned after a few minutes of shopping to reiterate their expressed disapproval. Somehow they reasoned that these kids needed to be confronted. Challenged. Educated.

I am regularly disillusioned by such bad manners, insensitivity and rudeness. We have the right to think anything we want and express those thoughts. But timing is everything. And I believe it is rarely what you have to say. It’s nearly always how you say it.

I, too, experienced confrontation this past Christmas when I stood in front of a store to ask for donations. I was part of a group who decided to provide groceries and a Christmas party for community members who needed a boost. After looking into the eyes of a few shoppers who felt the need to set me straight, I decided to pray rather than cry. It soothed my heart and extinguished my smoldering anger.

Prayer is like that. It is both powerful and soothing. It can be personal and helpful to those within listening distance.

I remember the first time I was ever asked to pray out loud. I was a high school freshman and the request to pray at the conclusion of a church youth activity initially terrified me. As a youngster I had prayed carefully memorized children’s prayers, but I had never before made audible — much less unscripted — the musings of my heart. I did not want to stumble or sound dumb. I felt flushed and my heart pounded. Then I prayed and lived to tell about the experience!

I learned right there how precious and tender are prayers. How vulnerable is the person who gathers the courage to make a need known. How trusted you become to pray on someone’s behalf, even if you are angry, sad, or confused about a situation.

So this week I prayed for a group of terribly sad kids and promised myself I’d remember them all week. What a privilege to tell the God of the universe about the hopes of some kids who wanted the life of their friend to be remembered beyond the years they attend high school.

In so doing, I entered a chorus of human voices who give breath to joys and fears, sorrows and hopes for this life.

Perhaps the most wonderful aspect of prayer is that it activates our interaction with God. When we pray we are submitting to the idea that there is actually a living, listening God to hear the things that matter most to us. And after we have uttered our prayers, we then spend time looking for His response. We wait to see what He will do.

Conversely, I believe that prayerful interaction is a desire of God as well — even if our prayers are full of anger and tears and uncertainty.

Prayer is restful and therapeutic. It forces us to stop, think about our situations, and sort out the details. We can put into words anything we are experiencing. There is nothing off limits, for God can take it all ... even the silence when we are at a complete loss for words.

I know people who write down their prayers, with little concern for misspelled words and sentence structure because nobody sees their prayers. If the idea sounds inviting but you do not know how to start, open the middle of the Bible and take a look at the book of Psalms. Here you will see how David and the other writers pour out their true feelings to God — feelings that move from total despair to utter joy.

Prayer is unifying. When we know the prayers of those around us it breaks down our own sense of isolation. And if you are still struggling, still wanting to discover the purest form of prayer, scoot close to a child and listen. I will never forget the start to a meal, long ago now, when our 3-year-old folded her little hands and uttered these solemn words,

God is great, God is good.

Let us fank Him for our food.

By Your hand we all be fed,

Give us Lord the baby’s bread.

There is no doubt in my mind God got the point.

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