Sometimes the prayers we say are the same prayers over and over again. I think with a smile of what my mom said to a friend as she and Dad were walking to church not too many years ago, Dad at that point moving slowly behind her. “I pray and I pray for patience,” she said with a sigh. Seven paces behind, leaning on his walker, Dad was heard to mutter, “Well, that’s a prayer God hasn’t heard yet.”
Mom, don’t worry. I saw that prayer answered many times.
But truth to be told, I’m probably like her. I pray for the same things over and over again: patience, confidence, faith, openness, selflessness, understanding, gratitude. I have to trust that God doesn’t mind hearing the same things over and over again from me. Perhaps the inner challenges I face are there to keep me talking to God.
I’m reminded of a story from my friend Joe Caldwell. For years he thought of his mother’s virtues as something she was just born with, her goodness, patience, endurance, all her expressions of faith and hope. It was only after her death, when he had a chance to see her prayer book, that he got a glimpse of her inner spiritual life. He found in the book’s pages cards, prayers for peace, prayers for missionaries, prayers for his father who had died 11 years earlier.
But leafing through the pages, he was most struck by one prayer in particular, the edges yellow and brown, the paper almost worn through. It was clearly the page she had turned to more often than any other. At the top of the page it said, “Prayer for Perseverance.” As he said, “The prayer, the words, the page had been worn away by nothing more, nothing less, than perseverance itself.”
Her prayer had indeed been answered.
P.S. One more prayer to add to this. Prayers for safe traveling. I’m heading to Africa tomorrow and probably won’t be blogging much the next two weeks. I’ll be in remote areas, visiting villages, camping in a tent, and seeing some animals. I look forward to telling you more about it when I’m back. Godspeed.