A couple of years ago someone mentioned a quote to me that put precisely and simply something that I’d known for a long time: “Prayer doesn’t change the situation, it changes you” . . . Or something like that. I was told it came from Grams on an episode of Dawson’s Creek, although no amount of Googling has confirmed that detail quite yet.
Wherever they came from, in my experience these words have proven entirely true. Whether my petitions are answered with a “yes” or a “no,” more often than not I realize that things I pray about are not as difficult or troubling as I’d expected them to be. Maybe I can let go of an argument a little bit more easily. Maybe I can talk about something I’ve been thinking about without feeling as nervous. Even when my prayers have been distracted and fleeting, taking the time to at least try to let go, to trust, to have some kind of hope, has produced a change in my attitude that I can’t explain any other way.
I’m already starting to see this in my fledgling parenthood. Before I was pregnant, there were times I was thrilled with the idea of starting a family, and others when I was doubtful about my readiness. I spent months praying about my state of mind, the state of my heart. Nothing felt like it was going to give, and I was terrified of being ungrateful and disappointed when I learned I was pregnant. I know these are common feelings and don’t dictate the manner of parenthood, but I hoped and prayed for what I realize now was the grace to respond joyfully.
And despite all my fears, despite the prayers that didn’t seem genuine enough to be acknowledged, you know what? The instant I realized I was pregnant, the most profound and beautiful peace filled me up completely. I knew I was ready; I knew this baby needed to be here right now; and I knew he was a boy (that part is yet to be confirmed. Check in again in five months).
In the time since that moment, I have still had times when I’ve been excited about this next stage and felt that it was absolutely the right thing for us. And I’ve still had other times filled with doubt and fear. But I was able to tell myself in that moment back in January that I would hold it for the times when I needed to remember what this was all about, that it was bigger than me, that I am needed in a special way for this child, and that’s a responsibility to be grateful for. It’s that kind of perspective, that broader vision that is the element of prayer I value most.
I don’t mean to say that prayer is easy or that I’m very good at it. But if there’s one thing I believe in, as much on good days as on bad ones, it’s prayer.