Over the past five months I’ve banked a considerable number of hours praying. But I have about the same command of the art as Brodie, who at a loss for words giving thanks over a spread of fishy, unidentifiable Taiwanese fare, offered this: “We thank you for this food… and just hope… that we like it.” Although I had at least five years of CCD with nuns, my Act of Contrition is spotty at best. I haven’t had the urge, memory, or patience to complete even one rosary. My brother-in-law, Bob, whose own Faith is weaved of finer stuff, gave me a mantra for my scarier moments: “Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the living God, pray for me, a sinner.” Too tired, drugged, and frightened to remember childhood prayers, and too humbled to ask for impossible things, this worked for me. Still does.
This short, simple sentence is one of the greatest gifts I have received (although Godiva of the Month also has transformative powers that are nearly Divine). Repeating it hundreds of times reminds me daily, sometimes hourly, of an ever-present, ever-loving, Living God. It also became my gateway prayer, leading to deeper discussions with The Big Guy who is calming, wise, and funny in addition to being all of those other things best itemized in song by talented types (like Bob) who can do Him justice better than I can.
Those who have less faith in their Faith (like me) could easily get hung up on “sinner.” Already browbeaten by Cancer, emotionally exhausted, and beholden to grandmas, friends, and an entire team of prayer-circling Episcopalians, were the constant reminders of my flawed human-ness really necessary? You bet. What a relief to admit my shortcomings to Someone whose Love braves my least charitable thoughts and shameless vanity. What a gift to be reminded that we’re all united by this moniker, and that I’m not the only one tempted to hurl paperbacks at small children. Every day I pray to be “better… and better.” I want this disease and the fallout of treatment to be over, but in the day-to-day, I want to excel at enduring it. And even if I don’t, there’s beauty in the trying, or at least some humor in the failing. I also pray for everyone who distracts me, feeds me, supports me, and loves me: all of you glorious, do-gooding sinners.
This preoccupation with prayer was inspired by Megan, who honored me with a request to compose one. Megan is a woman whose quiet beauty is matched by sweetness, generosity, and oozing goodness. Her prayers have got to be prettier than the homespun shout outs of this blogging sinner. But Brodie reminded me of the power of the deed, no matter the quality of the execution. Just the other night, Brodie asked all of us to join hands to pray over another smorgasbord of foods that cannot be translated into English. A-Gong had arrived that night, and this quorum of relatives inspired a celebratory, thankful mood in my 8-year-old boy, who almost never volunteers to say Grace. But in the moment (call it the Holy Spirit!) words to typical mealtime prayers eluded him: “… we thank you for this food… and everyone here. Does anyone else have anything to add?” For me, tears.