Thirteen is indeed a nasty number. As I wrote yesterday, many people consider that number to be very unlucky. I am now one who can be counted among their numbers. I can write this for two reasons: First, because this is my blog and I can write anything that I want, and secondly because today was a very great improvement over yesterday. Yesterday I had a sick granddaughter with frightening symptoms and no diagnosis, a challenging day at work where I was exhausted from lack of sleep and distracted by worry, and was facing an eye test to evaluate some weird visual disturbances that I was having. This does not make for a party sort of emotional state.
Today we apparently have a diagnosis, which can lead to a treatment. I got a decent night’s sleep last night (utter exhaustion!) which helps everything, and the eye exam showed no evidence of detached retina, which was the result that I feared most. So it would be very much in my nature to mutter a desultory prayer of thanks and relief, pour another glass of wine, and return to schlepping my way through life in my traditional pollyanna style. OK, I’m not that shallow. Not quite. But you get the picture. I live for the groove. I like the Ansel Adams photo of “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” hanging on my wall over the worn rocking chair that i bought upon the birth of my daughter 36 years ago and want both to stay exactly where they are for another 36 years. That doesn’t mean that I’m a stick in the mud. My friends will tell you that I am quite the opposite. Still, I have a lifestyle, a pattern of behavior that is my comfort zone. That comfort zone softens the blows of life for me and, so to speak, sedates me against the pain of life. It is this rhythm of life that I gravitate back to after the storm subsides, and this rhythm does not include pondering the power and efficacy of prayer. I only do that when waves are smashing in my windows and washing the soil out from under my foundation.
This is Lent however, the fourteenth day of Lent as a matter of fact, and I have tasked myself, and also feel that I have been tasked by God, to ponder the power and efficacy of prayer when the waves subside, the windows are replaced and the foundation shored up. So I ask myself now: Was my prayer answered? I prayed for the life and health of a beloved granddaughter yesterday and today we have great hope that a treatment can be drafted and put into effect, and that a beautiful young life will continue to bless her family until long after I am gone. Is that an answered prayer?
I don’t know the answer to that question. Nobody could possibly know the answer to that question. Could this be purely physical? Medical science applied to perplexing symptoms with the difficult but ultimately predictable outcome that I have described above? Yeah, I suppose that could be true. I suppose it is possible that I believe that some God answered my prayer only because I want to believe that, rather than believe that we are ultimately adrift in a random universe where the only gods are time and chance. To be honest, if I did believe that I lived in such a universe I probably really would create a god to believe in and wouldn’t blame anybody else if they did so as well.
But I do not have to resort to that. I worship a God who exists, who walked the earth, who preached, healed, performed miracles, was murdered but rose up out of the grave and appeared to multiple hundreds of people after the Romans had done their worst. And Romans were very good at building roads and aqueducts, creating a legal system, and killing people. I’m pretty sure that they killed Jesus good and dead. This God said that I should pray when I am distressed (among other times) and He will answer me. I prayed, and He answered. I am sure that’s how the deal went down.
Of course, there’s still Boko Haram, North Korea, ISIS, repression of Muslims in Myanmar, the raping and killing of women in India and a host of other things that I pray about that have not been answered. What about that? The answer if I am hearing God clearly, is that the people of God were in Babylon for 70 years, the Hebrews were in Egypt 400 years, and Jesus has not returned in two thousand years. Things take time, and God’s timetable is very different from my own. That’s cool. I’m OK with that. God may take a little bit longer to clean up those other messes, but over the last 24 hours He seems to have taken one load off of my shoulders. Tonight I will pray just as fervently a prayer of thanks as I prayed in supplication last night. Why? Because I have faith.