As a typical Methodist child of the early 1930s, my first prayers likely began “Now I lay me down to sleep.” Children tend to mimic and absorb that which they see repeatedly, and my parents were a praying pair that left a mark on my heart and head… prayers are powerful.
Experiencing others praying for me through several very critical illnesses in childhood left no doubt that prayers were answered. I knew I had been blessed by those prayers. I also began to recognize that sometimes God’s answers are not ones we expect or want to hear, much less accept, and often the answers are not as swift as we hope.
Having felt the power of answered prayer, my personal prayer life grew – and with it, frequent God “lessons.” They didn’t always come easily, however. Unless or until we are faced with unmanageable human situations, are we forced to examine our level of trust in God’s goodness. Are we willing to truly believe that God’s hand and His plan will see us through any valley of darkness? In our humanness we want answers yesterday – patience is a tough lesson to learn.
Ed and I were both only children and after being married a year, we began to talk “family.” After seven months, my prayers become more demanding and frankly, more frustrated. I specifically recall kneeling, willing to leave the decision to God – a prayer of simple resignation; “Lord, if there is a baby we need to adopt, that’s okay, I give up.” I released my problem and 10 months later, His answer was to give us Scooter, our first “prayer baby.” That was only the beginning of His miracles. We were blessed with Cissy two years later. Then, fast forward 16 years, (God must have a sense of humor) along came Charlie! We always wanted three children, but it was in God’s time, not ours.
Faith in prayer becomes clear not just by recognizing answered prayers, but in clinging to that innocent, child-like trust that God listens to our requests, our concerns, and our need for His guidance. Yet, He expects us to release our prayers into His care, confident His is the best plan. Having an active prayer life is necessary to gain that sought-after level of comforting, confident, constant communication with the Lord.
My prayers always begin by giving thanks for the opportunities to share the gift of prayer. We have the freedom to pray privately, to pray with others and to pray for others. The freedom to practice our faith through prayer is a treasured responsibility, and a source of strength and hope. “Trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him. God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8