hospital prayers

Before I became a parent, my prayer requests to God were spiritual activities done in order to maintain clear communication with God. I had the underlying expectation that prayer would be answered with a “yes”, “no”, or “wait.” Yet, with the birth of our first child, the fervency increased to such a degree that prayer became a way of breathing. Prayer was my posture before the only One that could keep my children safe from life’s unknown assailants.

Lying undisturbed in a hospital bed, my 8-year-old daughter slept peacefully for the first time in several days. The wind and rain rapped against the glass outside on this dark night just before Christmas, but in this room, all was quiet, save for the rhythmic beeping of her oxygen monitor. Pneumonia was the diagnosis. Never had my prayers been so earnest and simple: “heal her and bring her home.”

Three days later, we were still in the hospital waiting for a change in my daughter’s condition. We were wondering if our daughter would be able to come home for Christmas and wondering if her pneumonia was not some other affliction. Laying our hands on her body, we prayed for her as a family, wanting to believe that God was in control. That night I stayed with my daughter and prayed that her fever would lower to the prescribed temperature and we would leave the next day. Instead, her fever spiked again and we lost hope that Kayla would go home. Sensing her discouragement, I crawled into the big hospital bed, pulled her into my chest, and hugged her thin hot body. She asked, “Mom, why when you pray for healing does God not heal you right right that second?” “Sweetie,” I replied quietly “that is a very good question.” “Mama,” she mused, “I think it is because God wants us to know that life is hard.”

I was alternately saddened and amazed by this revelation of what my daughter described as our human condition. I had to examine my motives. Were my prayers merely for an escape from danger or for the wisdom to live through difficulty in the power of God’s sustaining grace? I now saw the need for both.

That Christmas, God not only provided a way for my daughter leave the hospital, but a way for me to leave my limited experience with prayer. For both, I am grateful.

Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life

I made a discovery while reading Nouwen’s book “Reaching Out”. My loneliness is masked by the constancy of human interaction of four young children and an influx of neighbors and friends. I find myself with the knowledge that no one has bothered to ask for weeks if I am soul satisfied. My “outward-reaching cravings” (RO, 13) and my “illusion that the final solution …is to be found in human togetherness” (RO,12) are both a part of my natural tendency towards extroversion. I agree that it is “impossible to move from loneliness to solitude without any form of withdrawal from a distracting world” (RO, 16). This is where I discipline myself to “stay alone and take the risk of entering into [my] own experience” (RO, 14). In this place I can weep over lost opportunities to be more present with my children, smile at a joke my husband shared with me, ponder the ending marriage of a close friend. From this solitary place I move back, full circle, more freely into the moments of relationships with a greater capacity for communion, honesty, clarity, love, grace and peace.

I have experienced so much freedom in seeing that even when I separate myself from people, nothing implodes! Our habits can be such powerful and relentless teachers. There more I served and led and organized, the more rewarded I was for productivity and creating great relationships. What could be wrong with that, my habits would ask me? And now my habits (disciplines) are teaching me new ways to be with people and be alone with my own very precious Father who loves to spend time with me.