I'm afraid I would have to agree with author/theologian Sam Keen that I don't believe in prayer, I just do it. Don't get me wrong, I consider myself a godly person, "a good Christian" if you will. Watching my children grow up made me an avid prayer. Though I still don't have conclusive proof it has made a difference in the end product, it certainly made a difference in me, giving me something to do when it seemed I couldn't do anything else.
For those who have been following the story of my son, Bryce, entering the Air Force, interrupted by a bout with appendicitis, this is the next installment. It has been a true test of parenting to be unable to intervene for him, to not be able to be present with him, and to otherwise feel helpless. Yes, I prayed. Often. Intently. Why? Because I couldn't do anything else, I guess.
Why don't I "believe" in prayer? Because I'm not sure an all-knowing, all-caring God needs me to tell Him-Her-It what to do, who to do it for and even when and how. Why should He-She-It respond to my requests over other just as concerned parents whose children haven't been as fortunate as mine? If something bad happens to our children, should we be accused of sleeping at the switch, neglecting to pray one day and therefore our offspring were unprotected just long enough to experience some misfortune?
I have to admit during my son's first medical emergency, happening far away froom his home and family and friends, I felt the urge to summon the Almighty frequently on his behalf. And while these were difficult times, those phone calls when my otherwise "tough-guy" son admitted he had cried himself to sleep he was so homesick. I wondered why all my prayers had not been answered as I requested. Being sick is never fun; isolated and alone in an unknown space is downright frightening. Does prayer make a difference - his, mine, others?
This is what some people call faith. I don't know. It takes faith to believe the medical professionals will be at their best when they tend to a loved one. It takes faith to believe good decisions will be made. It takes faith to believe our loved one will be strong enough and confident enough to be the best possible patient. But to believe that my prayers for intervention make a difference?
I have a better, more viable explanation. Praying makes me feel better. Praying is a calling. Time after time, Bryce appeared to me in dreams, assuring me he was going to be all right. Prayer seems like an unexplainable connection to another human being, whether the news is good or bad. I prayed because I had to. I'm sure lots of parents have prayed when the results weren't so satisfactory. Prayer, it seems, is not an automatic assurance that what we want to happen will happen. Or if our prayers weren't answered as we asked, we were a little short on faith that day.
While Bryce is apparently doing well physically, I would like to have had him not have to go through the pain of adjustment emotionally. I didn't get everything I asked for. Sometimes the best we can hope for is survival. Sometimes even the most faithful prayers don't get even that.
So I'm not going to take credit for Bryce's apparent good fortune through adversity due to my disciplined praying. I only prayed because I didn't seem to have any other choice. Maybe it made a difference in the outcome. Maybe it made a difference in me. Maybe it made a difference in Bryce because he knew I was praying for him.
I don't have all the answers, though I certainly seem to be increasing in questions. I don't pray because I believe in it or have any clue as to how or why it works; I just do it. As a parent who loves her children more than I ever thought possible to love anyone, I will continue to pray. And even more so now that I have so little control over their every day lives. I pray because I don't seem to know what else to do. And if my prayers are not answered in the way I want, will I have faith enough not to blame God or myself? I pray I will.