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Thursday, February 10, 2011

some of what I believe... and you?

Do you believe in prayers?

Do you believe in a power greater than your own?

Here's what I always wonder about prayers: where do "faith" and "Thy will be done" intersect? How can I have faith in a miracle and also expect that it won't happen if He doesn't so choose? What is expected of me to have "sufficient faith" to receive my prayer's appealing?  And if I pray somewhat hesitantly because I know that God knows what is best, does that make my faith less sufficient?

Sometimes it seems that the only stories of faith that are shared are the ones about FAITH OVERCOMING OBSTACLES. Something precious was found, someone found their way home, someone was healed. Cynics, like me, always think silently after such a story is told: that is truly wonderful, but a lot of times it doesn't work out and we should still have faith.

I pray.

I believe that a Father in Heaven hears my prayers. I believe that He wants the best for me. I believe He wants me to confide and trust in Him and His Son. I believe that if I ask for something, in prayer, that He agrees will help me to become a better person, He will grant it.

Trouble is, I don't know what will make me a better person. God is omniscient--He knows all. I may think that this or that will make me better, but He truly knows what will best form me. So, why should I go around asking over and over for something that I think will make me better when He knows that it won't? He might just give it to me after a time if I keep asking so fervently. And I might have been better without it.

But ask I do. And pray I will.


What of the prayers of many? Do you believe in their power?

I have been the recipient of the prayers of many. Just yesterday, in fact. Without going into detail, I asked for my family to join me in prayer. I can't suppose to know what they said, but I can say that I know that they did. Not because they told me, but because I truly felt it. Truly.

I have had 3 MRIs in the last year. If you have had one, raise your hand. You know what I am talking about when I say that they are loud, and stiff, and can play tricks in your head. Each time, they have scanned my brain. When they do this, you cannot move your head in the slightest or the test will have to restart. (each test can be from 1 - 4 minutes long x 15 - 20 tests)

I always have to swallow saliva. It collects in the back of my throat and I feel like I am going to gag or choke. If I swallow, then my head moves and the test has to be restarted. This happened MULTIPLE times during my 2nd MRI. And I always have to pee. And my head starts to pound. And my feet get unbearably cold. And my shoulder starts to itch. So does my nose. But DON'T MOVE a MUSCLE.

During yesterday's MRI, I felt calmer than normal. Less anxious than normal. The tech even told me that I was doing a "great job." I would have laughed at this if it were my first time, thinking "how can I do a great job by sitting still and doing nothing?" My other MRIs were harder for me to sit still and do nothing. So I was glad.

My anxiety during another test yesterday was also quelled significantly. I cannot describe how calm I felt. But I realized--on more than one occasion--that I was being comforted. That there was a calm presence surrounding me and literal love encompassing my being. Literal love.

I believe in the power of the prayers of many. And I am completely humbled that there are so many that will pray on my behalf.

Humbled that I could be so loved.


What are your thoughts on prayer? Do you believe that with faith you can overcome anything?


12 wise comments:

Alan Macfarlane said...

Anna, I think about those same things all the time.

In regard to God and my religious beliefs, I've just had to learn to have faith in paradoxes, or two things existing when logically they can't coexist.

On one hand, I do think there are times when God is willing to grant a blessing, he's just waiting for us to have the faith to ask. Even if it's a miracle.

At the same time, I believe inaligning our will and spirit with His and pray for His will to be done and for our faith and understanding to accept it and back it up.

Somehow both of these exist, at least in my mind. I can see how they can be the same things, but there are times that they are not, and I STILL think they both exist.

Anyway. I love you. Thanks for the nice post today.

seven smiles said...

yes, anna.

I've thought about all of what you've so beautifully written. many times over. it takes a much greater faith to endure the trials where our prayers aren't answered in the way *we* think they should be. but still I pray. like you, sometimes I am afraid for my persistence in a thing; that I will get what I am asking for *but do not really want*. I call these my "Martin Harris" pleadings. It's so very hard to discern which things lie in which camp, yes? but still I pray. when I am in my most conflicted and doubtful states, I remember a quote by C.S. Lewis that I love: "I don't pray because it changes God; I pray because it changes me."
and still I pray.

{ps- I'm raising my hand for the multiple MRI-s. Excruciating. I have significant constant neck pain and it is nearly impossible for me to hold my neck still. I need to move my muscles often or else they seize and cramp. I silently cried with hot tears streaming down my face (which made me itch) the whole way through.}

all my best. I'm glad you felt comforted and strengthened.

pps- you should submit this to segullah. I have a connection... I could put in a word.

Dana @ Bungalow'56 said...

I think about these same things aaalll the time, and never seem to come up with a solution. Its just nice to know that I am not alone with my questioning. I too am a cynic, yet I have no desire to relinquish my faith. I need God too much. I do not have the courage to make this side of my life a part of my blog. But I genuinely appreciate those who do.
Thank you for writing this.

Sue said...

My thoughts about prayer coincide almost perfectly with yours.

I'm glad you got the help you needed yesterday. Those MRIs are hard, hard, hard.


Aimee's Family Journal said...

What a lovely, inspirational post! I have felt that same, encompassing love as a result of prayer. I appreciate reading your testimony of it. A great lift for my day.

Anonymous said...

I believe in prayer - mostly prayer of thanksgiving. I do not believe that God chooses to physically intervene in our lives today. I believe that he intervenes in matters of the heart. I believe that he has given us His Son and the scriptures and with both in our lives we have the ability to have peace no matter our physical circumstances.

katyasmommy said...

Anna, I'm so sorry you had to have another MRI. I've only had one and it was awful. Hopefully, it can give you some answers. Please know, we are willing to help you and your family any way we can. We love having you as a neighbor. Your children are always welcome in my home! And yes, I do believe that Heavenly Father answers prayers, though often in His time and His way.

Helen Macfarlane said...

Just this morning Kevin spoke to me about this very thing. He was praying and God told him he needed to stop praying for the miracle he wants and start praying to be able to have the strength to continue on with what he's doing (which, in itself would be a miracle).

I agree with Alan.

God is the great respecter of agency. He desires our communication with Him, and He desires our happiness. He desires for us to let go of our own will because He must respect our agency, and at the same times, wants to bless us.

There is no doubt in my mind that prayers are answered, individual and collective. And there is no doubt in my mind that with God, we can float across troubled waters.

Stef said...

I beleive that the faith comes not in believing that God will grant us what we want, but that we have Faith the HE knows what is best and HE will give us what we need.

I too have experiences the prayers of many. When the piano fell on my son (Someday I will blog about this) my family and friends and pretty much the whole community prayed for him. And me. I felt peaceful the whole time we were in the hospital. He almost died. But through it all...I never lost it...not once.

Thanks for the reminder.

eric said...

I was just a lot about this as well.

Yesterday, Jaime asked me for a blessing. I asked her if she had faith, which was a dumb question, since she asked me to give her a blessing. I guess I was just hoping the question would encourage us both to exert our faith a little more. Meanwhile, I've been wondering how much of a role our faith plays anyway.

I know the beginning of "Prayer" in the LDS Bible Dictionary says something along the lines of "God is ready to grant us specific blessings that are contingent upon us asking for them." That feels very simple and true to me. I think that's where faith and His will intersect. In some cases. I think this is where some bonafide miracles happen as well. If they don't happen, it's not necessarily because we didn't have enough faith, it's just because they weren't waiting for us or contingent upon our appeal in the first place.

Those are the tough ones to accept sometimes. Because we wanted something we didn't get. Even after "asking nicely."

And then, there are the times that the Lord gives us what we ask for regardless of whether he thinks it will make a difference, only because he wants to show us he hears our prayers and loves us. Those are important, because they remind us he's there and merciful to our pronounced relative naivety.

I had a special experience at the beginning of my mission, in Augsburg, Germany. My faithful companion and I asked for a miracle that we'd find a needle in a haystack we'd lost (in this case the needle was a single person we met on the street late one night in a large city) We promptly found that person not once, but two more times in the next week, in totally different parts of the city, during different parts of the day. Our talks didn't lead anywhere significant (that i know of), but I believe God let us stumble upon this same person in that way just to show us he hears our prayers when we ask for something in faith, and we honestly mean well. In this case he also granted me the 20/20 hindsight wisdom that he answered that particular prayer just to show me that he answers prayers, and for no other big reason.

that is all. i'm still asking questions.

Jaime said...

Anna, This is a great post. We had a kind of strange lesson about trials on Sunday and I have been thinking a lot about praying and faith since then.

I like to think that because of my faith and prayers, Heavenly Father makes my life easier than it would be without Him, and I am able to be comforted because of my faith in Him.

Thanks for the post.

Jess said...

I'm still trying to wrap my little brain around the whole 'faith and the will of The Lord intersecting' business- if you figure it out will you tell me?