I wanted to tell her not to do it. You know, on the grounds that praying for the weather is typically a selfish endeavor. If God granted the wish of every person who wanted sunshine for her picnic day, we would not ever get any precipitation. Plus, God is not our personal, private genie, granting us snow on one day and a pony on the next.
But, honestly, I wanted to tell her not to pray for snow because I was nervous. My daughter is not much of a pray-er and I didn’t want one of her first requests to be shot down. I wanted her to pray for something… well… that was going to have a high likelihood of actually occurring.
I started to talk her through a theology lesson on what she should pray for and what she shouldn’t. But I stopped myself. I mean, if she wants to pray, who am I to stop her?
After all, I have always been told what to pray for and what not to pray for. Don’t pray for selfish things. Do pray for others. Don’t pray for small things. Do pray for the big stuff… on and on it went.
It got to be rather stifling actually. I was a pray-er when I was my daughter’s age, and even as a teenager. But when I went to seminary, I felt like I had to figure every request out theologically before uttering it. Every time I would begin to pray, my brain would stop it. My internal, snobbish, master of everything divine would kick in and say, Now, really, Carol. Do you really think that God has time for that?
I’ll tell you a moment when I knew it changed. It had to do when I prayed the most selfish prayer of all. We were in Rhode Island, and I was the pastor of a tiny church. We had enough money so that my husband could spend a couple of months looking for a job. But, after a couple of years, he still didn’t have one (not a lot of Presbyterian Churches in RI…).
It was great, in one sense, because he was able to take care of our daughter during her formative years. Although, financially we couldn’t make it. We began to cut corners. Then, we looked for every bit of change that we could possibly carve out of our budget. Then we began to sell our stuff at pawnshops, consignment shops, and yard sales. Then we started running out of stuff to sell….
I was totally stressed, running numbers in my head all the time, trying to figure out how the ends would meet. When another mom working in the church nursery pointed out that my daughter’s dress was too small and that I needed to buy her some new clothes, I almost burst out in tears. We were relying on hand-me-downs. I knew we couldn’t afford new clothes for her.
Finally, when I was completely at my wit’s end, I prayed a completely selfish prayer that went something like, “God, I know I’m a pastor, and I’m not supposed to care about money. I know I’m supposed to be above it. I know I’m not supposed to pray these selfish prayers. But we can’t pay our mortgage. We don’t have another penny to spare. We can’t do it any longer. I just can’t handle this. I am powerless over money, and my life has become unmanageable. You have got to restore us to sanity. You’ve got to figure out a way out of this for us.”
And somehow… the prayer was answered. We didn’t win the lottery or anything, but I suddenly saw a clear shining path in front of me. Very quickly.
I don’t tell people what they cannot pray. It’s just not my business…. Instead I encourage people to talk to God about anything and everything.
So, how did seminary change your spiritual life? What do you tell children about prayer? What do you believe about it?
The photo is by *Piney*