Before I went into the hospital to have baby Joy back in March, I asked for prayers. But, to be honest, I didn’t know why I was asking for prayers.
That was a topic that had confused me from the beginning of my conversion. I could understand why each individual should have a prayer life since, as this great post on prayer explains, it helps you “put on the mind of Christ.” But asking other people to pray for me? I wasn’t sure what that was all about. It felt a little arrogant to think that God would answer my prayer for this or that outcome of events when so many people all over the world have bad things happen to them every day after having people pray for them.
I knew that I must be missing something, but I didn’t know what it was. I continued to ask for prayers because I trusted that it must be good since the Church says it’s good and everyone else seems to think it’s good, but it wasn’t something I put much stock in (other than deeply appreciating the kindness of other people thinking of me during prayer, of course) because I didn’t get it.
Nevertheless, I had tons of people praying for me that March day — more than have ever prayed for me in my life! I was overwhelmed with all the kind posts from other bloggers, emails and comments in which I read of all the wonderful people keeping me in their prayers. Again, I figured that this must be a good thing, even beyond the basic act of kindness of thinking positive thoughts for another person, but I just wasn’t sure how or why.
As I got hooked up to the IV’s and circulation boots and monitors for yet another high-risk birth, there were a lot of things about the situation that were less than ideal. For one thing, it was a bit of a surprise that I was there in the first place. It also ended up that the epidural didn’t fully work — again! — leaving one part of my body numb and paralyzed and the other in excruciating pain for what seemed like 1, 000 hours.
And yet, through it all, I was filled with this inexplicable joy and peace. When I talked to the doctors and nurses, I was equally interested in the precious opportunity to show love to other human beings as I was interested in talking about the details of the birth. When the baby arrived I felt like, for the first time, I could simply sit in awe at the gift of new human life without worrying about what the next few days might hold. In my hospital room I had a smile on my face almost the whole time, despite being in pain and exhausted. I was in this weird, uncharacteristic frame of mind where I saw my own tribulations as not nearly as important as the opportunity to love — to love God, the doctors, the nurses, my husband, the baby, the pediatrics nurse who kept using a short tone of voice with me — just love! Even at the worst parts of my physical suffering during the labor, though I wasn’t conscious of much of anything other than hearing my own voice scream “AAAAAAHHH!!!”, I didn’t have the panic and despair that I’ve experienced before when in pain during childbirth.
As I hobbled around my hospital room a few hours after the birth, still unable to walk well because of the partial paralysis from the epidural, hunched over in pain, I marveled at this joyous state of mind I’d had since the moment I entered the hospital. It was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced, a magical feeling of being so filled with the peace of God’s presence that nothing troubled me. Where on earth had this all-too-rare ability to trust God so fully and focus so much on loving others come from?! Suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks:
I knew without a doubt that this experience of being brought so close to God was thanks to your prayers. It was as if my own selfishness and sinfulness had created a smoke screen that usually prevented me from seeing the world through the clear eyes of Christ, and that every single prayer said on my behalf was a little puff breath to blow the smoke away.
Did the prayers “work” in terms of changing the course of events to be more in line with my will? I’m not sure, because I haven’t thought much about it. After that experience, the question of whether or not prayer “works” to change the course of events has been rendered almost irrelevant in my mind. Because now that I’ve seen the power of prayer to allow someone a better glimpse of God himself, I would never want anything less.