Sharon has been writing for 35+ years. Her first poem was published in '74, Essence Magazine. She believes writing is her joy and privilege.
Over Half of All Adult Americans Pray at Least Once A Day
While bowing my head in prayer one morning, my godchild, Sarah, asked how she should talk to God; how she should pray and listen for His answers. I just bring him my heart, I said, and a desire to be in his presence. I went on to tell her that my relationship with God teaches me that I needn't bring a pious prayer-formula when I communicate with Him. So often My talks with God start with these few words: I need you. Please help Me. Please Show Me. Thank you, God, I Sure Do Love You.
When I was a little girl, I often listened to mommy and my great-aunts pray and cry; pray and shout and pray in praise. But aside from their ardent and consistent prayers, they also talked with God daily, in all places and circumstances. They taught me the language of prayer and inspired my conversations with God and His Holy Spirit.
I Need You God, Please Help Me
Before I matured in faith, a sense of weltschmerz dominated almost all my conversations with God. I approached Him from a disquieted place and asked Him to give me peace without first choosing to stand in that peace myself – a peace according to my faith, He had already given me. But that’s not how I prayed, nor how I lived my life. Indeed, I was not walking in peace nor speaking to God from that place. Consequently, a subtle pattern of worry and fear took root in many of my thoughts. Those thoughts became the preamble of my prayers. My conversation-countenance with my God demonstrated distrust in what I purported to believe: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).English Standard Version.
My talks with God were punctuated with resounding woe-is-me language and plenty of follow up questions; to which I felt entitled to answers. After all, mommy and my sage great-aunts promised that God would always answer my prayers. So, I said, God, I do love you, but I have a little bone to pick with you: I’m doing the best I can with these burdens and my faith-walk. But are you going to help me make sense of this relentless sack of trouble biting at my heels? You do know I’m struggling with a domino impact of losses, right? My cousin Dawn, an engagement (though disastrous, the loss was still painful), and my home – all gone. I’m doing the best I can with this pain, but it’s beginning to turn me into someone I don’t know anymore – I catch myself talking to myself…in public. And I am holding on to what mommy always said, “The Lord will never give you more than you can bear. He will comfort you in your sorrows.” But I must tell you, I don’t feel equipped to do all of this “bearing” anymore. My spirit-knees are buckling more every day. Matter of fact Lord, the harder I pray, the more my knees fail me. I was wondering can we possibly renegotiate the quota assigned to how much I’m supposed to bear? And another thing, I’m not feeling all that comforted right now. Where are you, God?
When presenting God with these Chicken Little scenarios, I didn’t recognize what He was doing through my journey of sorrows: He was instructing and stretching my faith with each step. He was teaching me to surrender my circumstances to Him and maturing me. He was establishing the walk by faith and not by feelings guidance that is paramount to faith’s infrastructure. Indeed, the sky hadn’t fallen. Indeed, He had comforted me. And indeed, He had answered my prayers in ways I couldn’t understand until I reached the other side of my pain, with a newly grateful and wiser heart.
“You’re Either Going to Believe God for His Promises or You’re Not. You Can’t Do Both.” Atawa Artis Washington-Rollins
Once, while delivering an epic, Why is God allowing this in my life? whine fest, my dearest, no-nonsense friend assured me that faith in God and His plans is not a grey area. “You can’t be a fair-weather follower of your faith.” Atawa helped me discover that my version of faith centered on trusting God to spare me from the devastating pains in my life. I wanted my prayers to absolve me of the accountability of faith that my elders endured; an endurance which proved to be the cornerstone of their unflinching trust in their conversations with God.
I never fully understood the high-wire act of stepping out on faith in arrant darkness – Not until God challenged me to trust Him when my life was disintegrating: In 17 months, I suddenly lost my job, the ability to sustain my home and plans for my future. My cousin, Dawn, who I cradled as she succumbed to stage-4 cancer, was gone. She was both my anchor and buoy with an infectious defy-the-odds spirit – She fought until the end. And selfishly, I wanted my sweet pea within arm's reach now more than ever. And there was my fiancé – along with a mercifully broken engagement and hasty discharge from my home – who I discovered was a highly functioning drug addict. A man who stole my jewelry, but left me with staggering bills, threatening emails, and months no discernible REM sleep.
What I learned through my tears and tantrums – shaking my fist at God, screaming and begging Him for a fix-this-right-now mercy – was that I had to trust Him even if it meant His answers to my prayers would not assuage my pain nor immediately restore my secure life. I still had to surrender every part of last 17 months completely to Him in active faith. And once I did – both in prayer and practice – a peace settled in my spirit; God’s peace that disrupted my tears, palpitations and restored my REM sleep. The Holy Spirit reminded me that God’s steadfast faithfulness didn’t reside in the “safety” of my life’s circumstances, rather in the dark and dry places. His abiding love for me was found in the testing of what I believed about Him. When I wanted to give up because I could no longer bear the pain, God’s Spirit said, "Surrender all to me." When I surrendered, He bore the pain for me.
Through my testing, God’s Spirit enriched the substance of my prayers and anointed our conversations. I was going through grown folks’ trials now. The kind that yield what my elders termed “midnight-hour praying.” It was then that Spirit told me to thank God for Dawn’s release. It was then that I recognized His favor in her last moments on earth: Dawn’s mother, my touchstone Aunt Isabelle, placed her in my arms shortly after she was born. And it was from my arms that God released her to His when she took her last breath.
Then God’s Spirit begged the questions: “Do you believe me or your circumstances? Haven’t I told you that I will never leave you? Don’t you know that I hear you? Can you trust me even if I don’t seem to answer when you call? Have I ever let you down? Dry your tears. Accept my gift of peace in this and every other coming storm. Believe what I have told you. Just believe.”
Thank you, God. I Sure Do Love You
I’ve learned to love and thank God for not only who He is, but for His amazing presence in every minuscule detail of my life. I love Him for allowing the wisdom-pain that often accompanies the answers to my prayers – answers that stretch my faith like Gumby and threaten to once again rob me of REM sleep. I thank Him because I can rest in knowing that He can be fully trusted with the perfect answer to my every request:
- I asked for strength; He gave me devastating loss to bolster me.
- I asked for peace; He sent me a season of raging storms where I found my peace in His presence.
- I asked for courage: He tested my worst fears – homelessness, abandonment, and hopelessness – and proved His promises: “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 31:8) King James Version
The Next Generation of Faith: 50% of the Millennial and Generation X Population Pray Frequently
“Godmommy,” Sarah said, “I’m not even close to your kind of faith. I have such a long way to go.” I immediately felt my family of elders in my spirit – the old guard prayer-warriors, those who have passed on. I nestled Sarah's head on my chest and they spoke through me, “Sweet girl if you could sojourn your faith-walk by yourself, you wouldn’t have a long way to go. But you can’t be the woman you profess you want to be – one who desires a world of inclusiveness where we seek to understand our differences – without your very own long way to go. God and all those who’ve gone before you – whose spirits still pray for you – will meet and guide you along the way." As they have for me, I said. Just take it one step, one simple request to God at a time: I need you. Please help. Show me. Thank you, God. I sure do love you.
Doris Richardson on June 15, 2018: