I try to live a prayer-filled life, but if I am to be truly honest, many days I downright forget. It’s not that good intentions aren’t there. Oh they are… I’ve tried group studies and even was given a gift to help me read the Bible in a year. Yeah… I got that gift over seven years ago, and I still haven’t quite completed that task, but I’ve come close! I even help my kiddos say their nightly prayers before bed, but somehow before my head hits the pillow, I don’t always remember to say my own personal prayers. In truth, for me, praying isn’t as easy as it sounds.
My mind is always running a mile a minute. Getting it to chill out is a small feat in and of itself. So pressing the pause button to offer up an authentic prayer in any sort of a regular pattern is a challenge. And if I do find myself with some free mental space for clarity, identifying what to pray for is just as tough, especially if I’m doing it right.
I know, I know. There isn’t a right or wrong way to pray. I agree with that statement, one-hundred percent. But just like I tell my son who grits his teeth at times when I ask him to apologize to his sister, pushing out “I’m sorry” like it takes every ounce of his energy to say, a heart-felt, sincere apology goes much further. I think the same is true when praying.
Most of us find it easiest to pray when you think you need something the most. When your heart aches, your body hurts… when the situation you are in pulls you to your knees, literally, then asking God for help is a no-brainer as many times it’s your last faith effort to get through the deck you’ve been dealt. When praying in time of need, the words come freely and the passion is ever-most evident.
But what about days when you’ve glided by somehow? When no one in the family is sick or you are able to pay all of your bills on time this month? What about when you made it to work and home in one piece, safe travels and no road rage? What about when life just lets you live it, without throwing you a curve-ball? It’s during those times, at least for me, when prayer can become a lower priority on my endless to-do list. And figuring out what to pray for is a doozy.
This week of thanksgiving reminds me that the most powerful prayers are those that come with no strings attached or requests demanded. They are the ones where you close your eyes and words aren’t even necessary because your heart speaks for you. For me, those are prayers of thanks.
The older I get, the more I find that when I do make time to pray, my prayers become more simplistic. Maybe it’s the fact that after having three kids I’m finally admitting that “pregnancy brain” is a real condition that far extends beyond a pregnancy…of two…or three. Without a list, my memory is diddlysquat. So simplistic being my choice or not, it’s the way my prayers go now-a-days. And I venture to say, in God’s eyes, He’s cool with it!
My daily prayer typically is as simple as a sentence or two. “Dear Lord, please watch over my family. I pray for their health, happiness, and safety. Amen.” Over the years I’ve tossed out the gobbledygook and have made my prayer about as pure as it can be. In fact, now when I repeat that sentence, I typically find myself pausing trying to think of what else I needed to pray for, and most times I can’t think of anything as important to add. Because, let’s be honest, nothing else is important. Truly.
Health is critical. Last holiday season, my husband and I heard the word “cancer”, as a suspicious spot on his forehead required surgery because it showed signs of it. After hours through the procedure, removing the spot layer by layer, we got the news that it was basal cell carcinoma. Not that cancer is something you want to experience, but from what I hear, if you’re going to get it, this is the type to get. Highly treatable for sure, but at his young age, the doctor mentioned that we must be on the outlook regularly as more will likely appear. I sat in the waiting room with him and even in the procedure room as well. For this gal who can’t stand a splinter or a few blood drops, I realized that day, I’ll do anything for those I love, even if it means turning ghost pale. We can endure anything we set our minds to, and while I had hoped that we never had to experience what we did, I know that my prayers were answered.
Health can change in an instant. Today, your picture perfect life can be turned upside-down by a test, a phone call, an exam. And if you don’t have good health, you struggle looking out a lens of optimism. It’s so true. If you are in constant pain or worry, you sometimes miss the beauty around you. And the term “health” is relative, isn’t it? A cold is nothing when you know you caught it early before something more severe sets in. A chronic condition is manageable, when you know that others before you didn’t have maintenance drugs that you get to benefit from today.
Today, right this moment, I am thanking God for my health and for the health of those around me. To me, the fact that we woke up this morning and get the opportunity to gather this week together, that’s worth being thankful for. Today, I pray for good health for you, too.
Happiness can come in many packages. I used to want a huge house and a good “nest egg” so that I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. Or fame… I wanted to be an actress like Jennifer Lawrence…and deep down I have to believe what my family always told me. “You can do anything you set your mind to.” Maybe I could have been on Broadway or a sitcom, but would I have been able to lounge on the couch with my family and watch TV instead of being on it. Maybe I could have owned a mansion, but would I have had the family to fill it?
Happiness comes in all shapes and sizes and many times, in the smallest moments that you may overlook. I realize happiness is in my little home in Kentucky. While at times it feels like the walls are caving in as this family of five is busting at the seams, here I have everything I could ever dream of.
Happiness is when my sweet Lyndi and I cuddle on the couch, and as my heavy eyes close for a moment, she lifts the blanket further, tucks it around my neck, shares one of her stuffed animals with me, and kisses my eyes goodnight. Happiness is the feeling I get when Luke runs up to me when he gets home to give me the biggest hug any 15 month-old could give. Or when he brings me a bag of stale cookies that he has carried around for months, seeing his eyes light up on the times that I actually open it to give him one or two. Happiness is when Eli tells me about his day at school or when he begs me to draw something for him to color, even though drawing complicated characters like Scooby Doo isn’t my forte. Or when Cory and I get the opportunity to watch one of our TV shows when the kids go to bed. Happiness is watching my mom and dad with my kids.
To me, happiness isn’t fame or fortune – it’s family. Today, I pray that we all find happiness in what we have been given and not yearn for that which others have. Our lives have many twists and turns, but I pray that you find happiness in wherever life takes you.
Safety. Gosh, you don’t realize how important this is until you don’t have it. Like this week when I heard about a car hijacking in my little community, having several young kids find themselves at gunpoint. Or when I’ve had someone break into my car – it happened twice actually. Darn convertible top, making it most easy for someone to try to take what isn’t theirs. Sometimes I just want to live in a bubble, but I realize we can’t.
We can’t live in fear of going to the movies or the mall, even though the media portrays a world where those places aren’t even safe. We can’t build bunkers and live underground away from society, even though one glimpse of a Walking Dead show will make you think it’s worth the investment in the rare chance of an apocalypse. We weren’t made to do that. We were made to connect – with others and with the world around it. So each night I pray for safety, and today, I pray for yours too.
Health. Happiness. Safety. As I prepare to fill the bellies of those I love when we gather around a squished table tomorrow, these are the three things that I will pray for and the three things I am most thankful for. Nothing else matters. The Black Friday ads will engulf the floor as my kids giggle over their wants this Christmas season don’t get me wrong. But toys break. Clothes shrink (it wasn’t the extra helping you ate at Thanksgiving, right?!). Electronics go out of style, as new curvy TVs or smaller gadgets leave you wishful for more. None of these things fulfill you, truly. In fact, if you pray for things, you will be left questioning if God really listens.
Instead, tomorrow as you gather with your loved ones, look around and be thankful not for what you’ve got, but for who you get to spend it with. Be thankful for the opportunity to breathe in the seasonal aromas and the ability to be together. Be thankful for the smiles and laughter, and even the ear-piercing kid shrieks. Be thankful for what you have, and stop yearning for what you feel like you still need. And at the moment that your thankful tank is about to overflow, remember to toss up a prayer to the one who made it all possible, placing your puzzle together without you even realizing it.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for our health, happiness, and safety. And I’m thankful to God that I get to share that with you!