Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"But thou, when thou prayest"

3 Nephi 13 notwithstanding, I want to write a post about my prayers.

I am overwhelmed by my praying. With the onset of the bar and the recent realities/tragedies/good things that have arisen, I want so many things, I do not know where to start. I cannot spend as many minutes on my knees everyday as I would need to be able to individually pray for all of the things I want deeply to pray for. And when I try to list them off--zip through them, even just to say the names of the people involved--two things happen: (1) I've torn the bag open, and it all comes whooshing out. My mind's eye (a General Conference phrase that always makes me laugh, though I know exactly what it means and how aptly it says the thing)--my mind's eye races around the country/world, praying for the people I love. New York, DC, Utah, Texas, California, Utah, Georgia, Texas, Texas, New York, New York, New York, upstate New York, Utah, Arizona, Utah, Utah, California, Melville, Melville, Melville, Melville, Melville again, Georgia, New York, Liberia, California, California, Iraq--and I am suddenly and again caught up in the torrent of desires for people I love.

Dear heaven, please bless the whole world. Amen.

But the second thing that happens, (2), is that the prayer begins to feel rote. Not rote, exactly. Boring. Boring, I guess is what I'm saying. (And maybe here's the answer: Maybe I shouldn't be worried about having boring prayers?) They're boring because I want the same things. I still want the same things. I still want Nate & Brittyn & Soren & Cokie to keep finding happiness in life and meaning at work/school and love for each other. I still want Dan to find a job he enjoys and Amanda to have chances to bless the world with her greatness. I still want Anika & Evan to be buoyed up in their ministries to their children and their community. Still want Joseph to be guided and sustained. Still want Jacob to be able to use his genius for good and to know that he is loved. Still want Peter to be close to his family in the ways he wants and has always wanted to be. Still want Rachel to know that I want to be like her. Still want Rebekah to feel confidence in defending love and truth and righteousness and Christ's gospel, even as a seventh grader when, let's be honest, there's so much defending that needs to happen. Want Joe F. to be preserved and protected, in body and especially in spirit. I want my parents' work at home, at church, at school, around, to be blessed and guided and effective. I want to have a heart that is soft and strong and others-oriented, to be ready to marry the good man when he comes along, and to do well at the many ridiculously cool opportunities that I have placed before me. And I want to be forgiven.

And these are only my immediate-family desires. I haven't even begun to pray for my visiting teachees/visiting teaching companion, or the many, many good roommates I've had, the friends I've loved, and the people I've served with or brushed past or take on faith exist--the military, the youth of the church, church leaders, missionaries, the nation's political leaders and presidential candidates. You. Etc.

So that's it. I am overwhelmed by the task of praying, by my sheer desires to see things effected. By my almost superstitious concern that if I'm not praying for it--verbally, vocally, regularly--then heaven won't know I want it. Then I won't remember/know I want it. And then all will be lost. (I'm being a little overdramatic now, but the bar is in T-two weeks exactly. That seems to be carte blanche for all sorts of emerging idiosyncracies.) But can prayer really be like that? I know we're commanded to ask ("Ask, and it shall be given you")--and for good reason--but can it really be if we don't say it every time we want it, heaven won't know to or won't give it to us?

How do we do it? Both practically and spiritually--how do we functionally and heartfully approach the charge to pray with specificity and with "all the energy of heart," and not end up saying every day the same long and true and real list of things that we continue to want, every day, morning and night, and, when we're good, all day long in our hearts as well?

Tell me, I pray you.


sharry said...

you don't know me, (i am levi's aunt), and you certainly don't have to post this comment, (i've never commented on a strangers post before), but...

i just wanted to say than thank you for this post. thank you for the reminder of the blessing and privilege it is to pray. and more importantly that we are heard.

how do we fit it all in? i don't know...maybe monday, wednesday, fridays is for family. tuesday, thursday is friends. and the weekend is ours?! i'm not sure. i do know however that lord knows our hearts. i choose to believe he hears our desires, both verval and heart felt, and is gracious enough to answer both.

good luck with the bar!

Sarah Louise said...

Sharry, your comment was a lovely, lovely way to start the day.

I'm glad you read into my post my love for prayer and how blessed I am to be surrounded by people and scripture and lore that practically shouts: PRAY! Do it! Right now! I'm a calmer, blessed, steadier person for it.

Also, I love your rotating schedule idea. I'm laughing as I write this, but I'm serious. Today is Tuesday? Maybe I'll hit the friends hard tonight. With prayer, of course. :)

Jeffery said...

Dear Sarah,

Your words address a most challenging aspect of prayer for me too. As you know my life is so rich and full. I am so grateful for so much and concerned about so many that I cannot mention all, but I know that the more specific I am, the more effective my prayers are. I guess this life is about learning to choose and that includes prayer. Love, Dad