In moments such as this one, where fear is abundant and uncertainty seems to the be the norm, the power of prayer can and may become a much needed breath of fresh air. Prior to our current global pandemic, prayer was already a staple part of my life, and — as has been for the majority of my life — an opportunity to connect with my Heavenly Father and seek guidance on the direction of my life.
Having encountered many intense moments in my life, from losing my biological father at the tender age of 2 years old to a car accident, to ending up in critical care a couple of years ago following the birth of our second son, prayer has been the literal lifeline that has kept me afloat when it seems as if all is lost.
I proudly declare myself to be a follower of Jesus, and have embraced his understanding of prayer as is seen in Luke 11:1-4 (NIV):
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”
This prayer has been the foundation for many religious understandings of prayer — from the Rosary, to Communion often taken in religious practices. But, for me, Jesus was saying much more about prayer.
Prayer is about reverence
Whether we like to admit it or not, regardless of our belief system, we all revere something or someone. Whether it be a role model, a celebrity, and parent, or a loved one. Reverence, and ultimately, prayer, is about paying respect. Prayer helps us acknowledge that we understand the sacrifices and importance that (such as in my case) our Creator plays in our lives. It's about recognizing that there is something and someone much greater than I am that deserves to be reverenced. As an act of humility, I choose to submit that reverence. Prayer, when seen as an open communication line, also keeps us connected to the one we revere.
Prayer is about a healthy dependency
When Jesus talked about the daily bread, he was referring to the everyday things. The mundane things. The things we need to survive. Prayer shows the One you revere that you are in need of them in your life, even if you can do fine “all by yourself.” Or think of it this way, how many people with children would ever turn your children away? Or, especially if you have small children, expect them to, say, feed themselves if they're hungry? It seems almost illogical to think they would even be responsible to do so, right? And, yes, though it could feel like a “chore” sometimes to have someone be dependent on you, how much more amazing is it to see that by you willingly being present for those who depend on you (and vice versa) -- whether you get it all right all the time or not -- actually creates joy and growth in our lives?! And, in this case of parent and child, isn't it such a beautiful moment when that child openly and willingly shows gratefulness for the everyday things, regardless of whether you have to do it or not? In the same way, and even more so, because our Heavenly Father both willingly and perfectly responds to us --- prayer shows our Creator that although I might be able to manage without you, I don’t want to. I want to keep you a part of my everyday life, and I want to show you how grateful I am for things that I know are both in my control and beyond my control. I am dependent on you in the ebbs and flows of life, and in the day-to-day happenings of life, because I desire to include you, from a place of healthy dependency, into every aspect of my life.
Prayer is about forgiveness
Probably the most important aspect of prayer is the opportunity it provides for us to "clear the air." No one is perfect. Let me repeat: NO one is perfect. It doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to do our best, but life is surely complicated. The beautiful thing about prayer is that when we open the line to acknowledge that sometimes we do mess up, forgiveness is ready and waiting. And, it is not to say, “well I’ll be okay because I know I’ll be automatically forgiven,” but again, it’s about the understanding of reverence, appreciation, respect, and, ultimately, love. When we, in our everyday lives, adore a person, we want to do whatever possible to keep things right. In the good or the bad, we should desire to be “quick to forgive,” as we know that provides a healthy balance of honesty, trust, peace, and commitment to one another. With prayer, it is the same thing. When I pray to my Heavenly Father, it gives me space to humble myself, and acknowledge that I don’t do everything right. It gives me an opportunity to both release myself, and if there is anyone who I need to release, receive the strength to do so, so that bitterness, guilt, shame, or hurt do not lead to a permanent divide or separation between myself and the one I love, because that love, that relationship, should far outweigh the value and importance of our relationship.
Prayer is about hope
Finally, but not exclusively, prayer is not a mere religious act or act of “false hope.” Prayer is about real hope. I have seen prayer do too many real life, powerful things in my own life to reduce it to “a motion.” Although life can try to make prayer be that, in its essence, it is so much more than that. Prayer is an opportunity for impossible situations to happen; for hope to be revived; for situations to be transformed in ways that are, quite literally, miraculous feats. As I said, I have seen critical situations turn around in an instant. I have seen people show up at just the right time to change a dire situation to peace and relief. I have seen, in my own life, people healed from comas, off of deathbeds, sickbeds, and freed from traumatic situations. Yes, all by the POWER of prayer. Prayer restores a type of hope that, as the Bible says, becomes “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19a NIV). Prayer revives our hearts and minds to recognize that there is something more beyond us. And, yes, there are moments where it seems the prayer we wanted to be answered didn’t turn out the way we wanted. Maybe a love one “didn’t make it,” maybe a situation felt like it got worse, maybe the outcome we hoped for didn’t meet our expectations, but that doesn’t mean prayer didn’t work. Prayer instills unshakeable hope until the last moment, and builds a “muscle” of faith that acknowledges “all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27 NIV). And, in those most challenging times, if we really think about it, prayer provides a comfort where otherwise it may not have been. Prayer opens the door to say, God, I don’t understand this, but I acknowledge that I need you, regardless of what has happened. And, prayer will continue to bring hope, strength, and peace in moments that seem utterly hopeless.
So, in these moments where many are isolated, alone, despondent, uncertain, overwhelmed — now is the time to allow prayer to change your heart and mind in a way that no other intervention can. Let prayer lift you up from the dark places of life that seem to be closing in. Prayer is that light, that breath of fresh air, that opportunity to say: My Father, who is in Heaven, Holy is your name. I need you now. Help me. Comfort me. Be with me. I welcome you to pick up the pieces of this broken world and my own life to give me the strength to thrive in times of chaos, darkness, and despair. And, I guarantee you, if you approach prayer with a pure and sincere heart, and with a willingness to believe the impossible, you will see light and life in a way that will bring hope when it seems like all hope was lost.
I’m praying for you in this moment, speaking life to the places that need life, and expecting our Father to do what only He can do: never fail.