Ima get the ugly honesty part out of the way first. Praying is sometimes thoroughly weird to me. When I’ve gone through seasons of doubt, prayer is almost always the first thing I throw out the window. I want to believe I’m not alone in this; this can’t be a just me thing. Surely I’m not the only one who has been mid-prayer and been like “what am I EVEN doing right now?” I don’t like it, but it happens. And I’ve luckily grown enough over the years that when it does happen I know how to combat what I believe to be is happening and I pray harder. Focus more on my Heavenly Father and take bigger strides in drowning out the world. It’s tricky, but it’s possible.
I don’t know how necessary it was for me to share that little kernel of truth in the grand scheme of things, but I feel pretty good about saying it. I think it sheds a little light on why I’m far less likely to say “Ima pray for that” than the phrase that I constantly say.
“Let me know what I can do for you.”
That never feels weird to me. I’m extremely comfortable saying that or other variations of it all the time to people. I’m only now learning that it is what needs to be thrown out the window.
A couple weeks ago I was talking to my mentor and friend about a pretty trying scenario in my life. I felt a strong sense of responsibility for someone and was just trying to think of ways I could essentially save them. My mentor looked at me and asked me something that struck me. Hard.
“Do you trust God with this person or do you think that you could do a better job?”
Woof, right? It wasn’t easy to hear, but it was a really important moment for me. Because the thing is–a lot of the time I have thought that I could do a better job. ‘Cause I’m crazy prideful and have an overwhelming supply of an “I can handle that, and I can handle that and I’ll go ahead and take on that and you’ve got problems too? Yep, lemme have em. ‘Cause I got this. I got ALL of this.” attitude.
The past few years I have watched one of my sweetest and closest friends go through hell. A lot was thrown at her. And then a lot more. Over and over again, as dust was settling from the last big blow, it seemed another one was not far behind. While I’m so grateful to have been able to be her friend through these times and love her during them, I’ve hated it. I hate knowing she’s hurting and there’s nothing I can really do to fix that for her. I can’t express to you how humbling it has been for me to say over and over again “let me know what I can do for you” and know that her most honest answer was always going to have very little to do with something I could do for her and far more to do with what Jesus has already done.
I’ve sent hams when family members have died. I’ve made mix CDs designed to cheer up a post-break-up friend. I put on a Goodwill wedding dress and ate popcorn just to resemble a FRIENDS episode and make someone smile. And I’ve loved doing all these things and more in an effort to alleviate the pain that people I love feel. But I’m never going to be able to lift someone as high out of the depths of their despair as Jesus can, has and continues to.
And maybe that’s why it doesn’t really matter if prayer feels weird sometimes. Maybe that’s why all of my efforts to save people have failed or have only momentarily helped. Maybe that’s why my offering of a tiny band-aid to heal the huge gaping wounds left by sin and tragedy have fallen short. It’s because I fall short. And until I’m willing to grab a friend’s hand and lift them up not by my own efforts or strength but through concentrated, focused and earnest prayer, I will always fall short.
I had somehow convinced myself that offering to pray for someone–offering to hand them and their hardships over to their Creator and Savior– that that was doing too little. But prayer isn’t some last ditch effort or small pleasantry to toss around lightly- it’s communicating with the God of the universe. It should be our Plan A. Every time.
I think I’ll always want to do little things for people I love. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that God created me to instinctually think to myself “ugh, they’re having a bad day. I should totally bring them a milkshake.” People LOVE milkshakes and momentary happiness is not evil in and of itself. You’d have a hard time convincing me that someone who had a tough day in the office doesn’t want a cookies and cream milkshake delivered to their doorstep.
But if that’s all we’re willing to bring, we’ve come quite empty handed. We’ve somehow diminished the reality that eternal peace and joy is only available through Christ. Saying “let me know what I can do for you” somehow implies that we’re capable of doing anything as meaningful and lasting as turning people towards Jesus.