OK--so, this will be the end of all my heady philosophizing . . . at least for the time being, but my sister initiated a conversation with me worth mentioning, so I hope you can stand one more semi-serious topic. Then, I'll go back to the mad-cap hilarity. I promise.
Terri was talking to me about all the parallels between life and death and somehow we merged onto the topic of prayer and I realized how differently I now pray since Jeff died. But, first a little background: I get a massage every two weeks (when I have a Rabid Aardvarks show the night before, otherwise I skip it). I started this habit when Jeff became too sick to give me backrubs. I was usually sore and tired the day after a show (Hey, the Magic doesn't bring itself and it's hard work to Rock It from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. every weekend!), so Jeff would generously give me a back rub, or foot massage, etc. I have always felt like human touch is important and am naturally affectionate to my kids and friends. Jeff commented once that my easy and frequent displays of affection are what taught him how to be affectionate to our children. And I recall studies on the importance of touch where monkeys raised by impersonal wire forms intended to look like "mothers" fared worse than monkeys raised by equally inanimate but soft and cuddly "mothers." A massage is certainly no substitute for a husband's affection, but I believe it provides important psychological and physiological benefits and since I now have no husband, well . . . that's as good as it gets for now.
Anyway, while Jeff was alive I spent the entire hour-long massage in prayer. I actually looked forward to the quiet opportunity to bombard God with my incessant petitions. During each hour, I prayed constantly: I asked God to heal Jeff; to save him; to cure him; to let him live; to spare my children; to help me; to comfort us; to give us all safety, good health, peace, and happiness. I mean--I really went to town.
Then, I had a massage this past weekend, and I realized that my prayers had changed. I don't know how or when the evolution took place, but I noted one hallmark characteristic of my "new" prayers: I quit asking for things. And as I talked to my sister, I understood why.
I trust God knows what I need and that he will give it to me regardless of what I ask for. Just because I've asked for things and haven't gotten them doesn't mean that my prayers went unheard or unfulfilled. I tend to think it means God has something better for me than I could have ever sought for myself.
Here is (what else?) another analogy to illustrate my point. Shortly before Jeff was diagnosed with cancer, Aubrey and I were shopping at the mall for his Christmas gift when Aubrey zeroed in on a pair of leggings/tights that she absolutely HAD to have. (Maybe I've told you this story before, and if I have then you can take an intermission and skip to the end . . .). At first, she asked nicely, "Mom, can I pleeeeaaasseee have the tights?" I said, "No." So, then she tried to bargain with me and said, "What if I keep my room clean for a whole month? Then can I get them?" Again, I said, "No." So, she resorted to reasoning with me: "But I babysit the little kids all the time and I don't even get paid for it and the tights are only six dollars which isn't even very much considering all I do to help." But I was firm and said, "No. I'm not getting you those tights." She continued to beg. I continued to resist. By the end of the conversation, she was crying and telling me how mean and unfair I was and that I didn't understand, etc.
However, the reason I was so unmoved--and what I could not explain to Aubrey at the time--is that I had already bought her the tights for Christmas and they were wrapped up and hidden in our basement storage room. I knew she coveted those tights. I had paid attention when she pointed them out in magazines and in stores on prior occasions. I knew how much she wanted them and I knew that if I told her in the middle of her incessant begging that I had already bought the tights it would have ruined one of her best Christmas gifts--which in some ways, she would later admit, was made even better by the fact of our conversation. And when she opened the tights on Christmas morning, she immediately understood and said, "So THAT'S why you wouldn't buy them for me that day at the store!" And she learned that when I say "No" to her, she can trust it is for a very good reason and that even if she doesn't understand the reason at the time--it will all be worth it.
And so, I've begged God. I tried to ask nicely. I tried to bargain and reason. And there were times it would have been easy to turn on Him and tell Him how mean and unfair He was and how He just doesn't understand. But, He understands much better than I do, and I have a feeling that everything I need will be given to me--and on much better terms than I would have gotten if I had pestered and begged. And, so I've stopped asking for things because I trust God knows what I want, but more importantly, he knows what I need and will give it to me regardless. And it adds the element of excitement (or some might say, it takes away the element of control . . .), but, in my opinion, the best gifts aren't the ones you've begged for. For me, when people ask me what I want for Christmas or my birthday, it is a lot more fun to let them surprise me with a gift they have specially selected based upon the fun things they know about me than to ask for something specific, because then it isn't much of a gift at all--it's more like giving a gift to myself and they are merely the conduit.
And too, if God takes a paternalistic approach, I can guarantee that any parent is more likely to do favors for a grateful and obedient child than one who only comes to a parent when they want something and when they whine for it relentlessly. I know I am far more likely to be accommodating and forgiving when my children have helped without complaining than I am when they have insisted on negotiating an incentive. I am far more tolerant and patient when they have accepted my refusals or explanations than when they have been stubborn and defiant. Maybe God isn't so different. Maybe he just wants us to trust Him and let Him give us exactly what we need. So, maybe the only prayer worth saying is "Thy will be done." Period.
I know it sounds crazy for me to say things like this because I've had my fair share of disappointment and tragedy in my short 36 years and, therefore, can cite no proof in favor of my belief that God will give me everything I need. I just know that He will. And He is.