Tuesday, March 22, 2016

When You Have No Friend to Phone

How do I describe something as personal and emotional as prayer?

When we are children, or investigators, we are taught the steps of prayer:

  1. Address Heavenly Father.
  2. Thank Him for everything you are grateful.
  3. Ask Him for the things you need.
  4. Close in the name of Jesus Christ.

There is little in this sweet, simple, hesitant formula for prayer that resembles what it has become for me. In the wake of marrying and subsequently escaping an abusive spouse, pregnant and feeling so desperately vulnerable, my prayers have truly become constant. I prayed to get up, I prayed to make breakfast, I prayed to keep my breakfast down, I prayed to give my daughter a stable and loving home, I prayed for her strength, for mine, for help, for someone anyone to be there for me, for me to understand what I was going through, what I did wrong, how to fix it, how to heal, how to cope.

I prayed for a calm mind, for a body that continues to work, for safety. I prayed to not screw up any more things that meant the everything to me. I prayed until I had no more words, and could do nothing but kneel, sometimes sobbing, sometimes numb, but always with no idea of what more I could say. I have prayed with "full energy of soul" for nearly fifteen years. What I have prayed the hardest for has yet to be granted. I'm so, so tired of praying.

I have had amazing friends, people who came out of the woodwork to listen to me when I needed to be listened to. But there have still been times—still are times—when there is no one but myself and the gaping, empty, raw and bleeding hole at the core of my soul. I have shouted my prayers into this hole, and it is healing, slowly. It will never be what it was, of course. But it is what my best efforts and the miracles of God can make it.

This is why, when I listened to "The Importance of Prayer" by Franklin D. Richards, I knew what i had to write about.

The "importance of prayer" sounds so cold, so definitional. It sounds like a boring moral lecture from an even more boring pedant. It sounds nothing like the wrestling, fiery, desperately agonizing struggle before God that I have come to know as I have sloppily wrested my will into His.

But there are nuggets of fire planted deep within Elder Richards' words. "We can learn to solve our problems with God’s help, making him our partner." To "solve our problems" with God's help, in my experience, is not some white-lit peaceful process where upturned faces are bathed in heavenly light. It is raw, real, as raw and real as childbirth spent in terror that at any minute, at a time of deepest vulnerability, your abuser might walk into the room as was his court-ordered right. It is a hunger and a fear, a fight to create. Bloody, tortured, and liberating. It is feeling blocked, trapped, without any way out of where you are without submitting yourself to the pain of waiting forever to hear the smallest answer.

Don't get me wrong. The Lord has answered me. He has answered me in ways I can doubt no less than a conversation between me and another person. Given the damage to my mind and memories because of crazy-making and gaslighting, rather better, actually. But not all His answers are easy to bear. I am a woman who cannot bear to marry again in a Church that holds a woman's value primarily as her role as wife. A mother without a father, a half home. A half home that must somehow find the strength to defend against demons far more real and vicious as any Mephistopheles or Screwtape, more concrete and immediate than what laws are passed in a teeming room nearly a full continent away.

There is so much pain I can't heal. So many stories I can't hear. So much sorrow I can't soothe. So I pray. I pray not only for me, but for the mass of souls, my brothers and sisters who are lost in their own smug superiority or by all-too mortal hunger and fear.

I try to teach my children that, while I long to always be there for them, I cannot. That there is One who is, One who is only a prayer away. This morning, my daughter chose to pray a personal prayer after she endured several cruel actions of her younger sister. If I can teach my children to pray, I can rest easy. Because if they learn to commune with their Father, they will never be alone, never need be scared.

So yes, "prayer is important." Through everything, it is the only importance. It is our lifeline, our "phone a friend" when we are stumped by life's most terrifying questions. It is the only way to pierce the veil of mortality and reach towards our Father, who loves us. Prayer is everything.

"And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.

But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul."

2 Nephi 32:8-9
Photo Credit: Adam Abram's "Gethsemane"

General Conference Odyssey

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