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  • Rev. Annie McMillan

“Give Us This Day…”

There’s so much going on in the world today: grief as many lose those they love, far too many to cancer. Election season and all that comes with it. Wars and rumors of war. We pray faithfully, but sometimes it can be hard to believe that our prayers actually make a difference, that there’s any point to praying.

Two weeks ago I mentioned that God wants to hear from us. We discussed the Lord’s Prayer and how to pray. Now, we hear a little more on the Daily Needs section: we can trust God to indeed provide what we need. That means we are to ask for our needs and trust that God is listening. Like the Psalmist who explained to God why God should listen to his prayer.

Fred Craddock tells a story about a woman who was at the hospital when he was visiting someone from his congregation. The woman was outside the hospital chapel, desperate and crying out at the locked door. She was about 40, and her hair, her dress, everything indicated that she had come unexpectedly. They got the door unlocked, and Craddock learned that her husband had had a heart attack. He says:

I told her who I was, and I said, "Can I pray with you?"

And she said, “Please."

I started to pray for her and for her husband, and she interrupted me. She didn't just interrupt me; she took over. She started praying herself and stopped my prayer. I think maybe I was too quiet or too slow or saying the wrong thing or something. Anyway, my prayer wasn't getting there, and she knew it. So she said, "Lord, this is not the time to take my husband. You know that better than I do, he's not ready. Never prays, never goes to church or anything. He's not ready, not a good time to take him. Don't take him now. And what about me? If I have to raise these kids, what am I going to do? I don't have any skills, can't find any work. I quit school to marry him. If I'd have known you were going to take him, I'd have stayed in school." She was really talking to God. “And what about the kids? They don't mind me now with him around. If he's gone, they'll be wild as bucks. What about the kids? This is not the time to take my husband." Whew.

I stayed as long as I felt useful. I went back the next morning, and she had on a nice dress; she had on shoes; she had combed her hair. She looked fine. She was in the hallway outside intensive care. Before I could ask, she said, "He's better." She smiled and said, "I'm sorry about that crazy woman yesterday."

I said, "Well, you weren't crazy."

She said, "I guess the Lord heard one of us"

I said, "He heard you."  ”

What if we prayed like that? What if we prayed as if God were really listening? As if we actually expected God to respond? In one of his commentaries, David Lose writes, “Our prayers to God ought to be bold, audacious, and unfailingly confident.” They don’t need eloquence, they just need to come from the heart. Like the woman’s heartfelt, desperate prayer in the hospital chapel.

“Ask and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” This means asking for ourselves: what do we need right now? God is good. He will give good things to those who ask, even when it looks different than what we expect.

We are to pray for more than just ourselves, though. When we looked at the Lord’s prayer, I noted the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread.” We are to pray for more than our individual needs; we include others’ needs as well.

And in case you don’t already know this, you have the words! Craddock was the “professional pray-er” so to speak, but it was the woman who had the trust and passion to pray for what she and her husband needed. I believe Fred Craddock’s prayer would have gotten to God, but it was the woman who knew what was happening, and had the audacity to pray for exactly what she needed.

God wants every good thing for all of us. God feels our pain when everything goes wrong. When the future is uncertain. When we aren’t sure how to move forward. When bills are piling up, or loved ones are sick, or something is wrong and we aren’t sure what it is or what to do about it. God listens to each and every prayer.

So my invitation: approach God like the heavenly Father, the one who gives good things and wants us to ask. Don’t worry about saying the right words. Just trust that God will respond: To our prayers for ourselves. To our prayers for our loved ones. To our prayers for the world. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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