The first time I ever said a prayer that wasn’t something someone told me to say was at London Heathrow airport. I was 21 years old and all of the sudden became ill. It was toxic shock syndrome from using a tampon too long and I felt like I was going to die. To make a long story short, I lied down on a row of seats and prayed, “God, if you are there, please help me get home.” I had been told my plane ticket could not be changed to accommodate this. After praying, a different airline employee got me on the next plane back to New York where my mother, who is a doctor, waited for me with antibiotics. After 20 hours of sleep, she told me I might have died had I not received medical help.
This boost in believing in the unseen led me to religion, and I tried to learn everything about it. Hypocrisy pushed me away and made me a bit of a skeptic, but I still believed in prayer. However, the last time I prayed with words before allowing years to pass without them was on September 11, 2001. After that day, nothing would come out of my mouth except “I don’t know what to say,” “Please keep me safe,” or “Please, help me!” Once, instead of praying, I wrote a song, Never Let Me Go.
Learning to pray can happen because of love – agape, that is. When we experience agape, or unconditional love without expectations, it melts our hearts if we allow it. But we need to trust in order to allow agape to really do its work. That doesn’t mean trust people, because humans are really not to be trusted. But trust that no matter what people do, there is something good in everything. When we least expect, agape puts its limitless arms around us. Sometimes we experience it through people who might otherwise be untrustworthy such as a convict who finds spirituality while in prison. (I didn’t find agape that way; it’s just an example.)
I am a very prideful person. I have a tendency to show people better ways to do things. I can talk circles around people and twist conversations my way. I know how to manipulate and I am arrogant. The only time I would pray would be on a motorcycle. Other times my pride kept me from praying. I had forgotten about agape.
But now I’m humbled. For having been tested with an IQ of 140 on the Wechsler scale, PTSD has made me feel dumb. I am unable to go back to my last job and will probably have to take a pay cut of at least 50%, which will reduce the quality of life I like. I lack the mental energy needed to be Wing Girl Kim and host workshops and dating seminars. In the past I had all kinds of solutions, but now I have none. The only thing left to do is pray.
Yesterday, I thought about suicide. It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem. (Thanks for the line, Barb!) Sometimes even drugs aren’t enough to ease the depression that leads to suicide. But there is prayer. So, yesterday I prayed. And with words.
To pray, my prideful ass first needed to be humbled. Within several days, this came by saying to God, “Humble me.” Ouch. Then came being re-traumatized, followed by learning what my limitations are in going back to work, followed by that awful depression. Though all this, agape appeared through the support of friends. And we prayed together.
There is no single formula for prayer and many ways to approach it. Some say to talk to God as if he’s a friend you’re hanging out with. I have a hard time with that approach, though in the past while happy and feeling strong, I have prayed that way.
Sometimes I ask for a spirit of intercession because words are difficult to say. I ask God to help me trust that everything will be okay. I tell God that I don’t know what to do and ask to show me. Then I pray for people. I thank God for the people in my life and for what I have.
Here is a passage from The Good News version of Luke 11:
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this:
May your holy name be honored; may your Kingdom come.
Give us day by day the food we need.
Forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone who does us wrong. And do not bring us to hard testing.’”
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Suppose one of you should go to a friend’s house at midnight and say, ‘Friend, let me borrow three loaves of bread. A friend of mine who is on a trip has just come to my house, and I don’t have any food for him!’ And suppose your friend should answer from inside, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ Well, what then? I tell you that even if he will not get up and give you the bread because you are his friend, yet he will get up and give you everything you need because you are not ashamed to keep on asking. And so I say to you: Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks.
In this manner he describes, I can type a prayer…
Dear God, I believe you are almighty and in control even though you give us free will. You make happen what you want and move our hearts in ways that glorify you even if it seems tragic to us. I trust you that we go through difficult times so that maybe we will learn how to be closer to you and know you better. Thank you for providing everything that we need. Thank you for putting people in our lives to help us get by. I’m sorry for not praying to you more and not acknowledging you more often. I’m sorry for getting anxious because I don’t pray enough. Please help me trust you and not try to control situations. It’s not my place and I act out of pride. I forgive those for re-traumatizing me and pray for them to feel loved and learn to love. Please help us to find strength and solace from you. In Jesus name, Amen.
Don’t give up.