catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 24 :: 2010.12.31 — 2011.01.13


A cleaning and a prayer

I rushed through a clipboard of forms at my dentist’s office as elevator music played softly in the background. It felt like just another item on my to-do list — dentist’s appointment, check — until I noticed the prompt asking if I had any new medical conditions to report.

I hesitated for a moment before I wrote, “I’m pregnant.”

There it was. My secret was out. I hadn’t planned to tell my dentist before my friends and family, but over the past few weeks I had been hesitant to share the good news.

My husband Chris and I knew first-hand the heartbreak of what can go wrong in a pregnancy. Fourteen months earlier, I had a miscarriage. Every month since then brought hope and the possibility of new life, followed by disappointment.

And then, just when I least expected it, the pregnancy test was positive.

I took a breath as I looked up at the ceiling tiles from the dentist’s chair. It just so happened that my hygienist, Gia, was also pregnant. She asked about my due date and offered pregnancy survival tips. Something about the way she spoke made me comfortable enough to say we were excited but cautious because of our experience last year. Gia was quiet for a moment, and then she shared one last bit of pregnancy advice.

“I understand how you feel,” she said, and explained that she also had a miscarriage last year. “Sometimes, all you can do is pray.”

But prayer was the last thing on my mind.

Before I was pregnant, I didn’t want to speak to God as if He had a magic wand to grant my request. So I tried praying that Chris and I would grow as a couple. I tried praying that the doctor would have wisdom to understand our trouble conceiving. But most days, all I could muster was, “I believe. Help me in my unbelief.”

If I didn’t know how to pray in my pain, I found myself even more uncertain how to pray in my joy. Somehow the idea of keeping my prayers to myself seemed easier than verbalizing them. It felt like the easiest way to avoid holding God responsible if something went wrong.

Along the way, I started to wonder if my prayers even mattered at all. I fell prey to the same kind of doubt C.S. Lewis wrote about in The Screwtape Letters when he imagined the kind of advice demons might give each other about planting seeds of disbelief, like “…the haunting suspicion that the practice is absurd and can have no objective result.”

So when Gia said she would pray for me, I wasn’t sure at first how to respond.

“I don’t want to sound like a bible thumper,” she said, “but I wanted you to know I’ll be praying for this baby.”

I blinked back tears as she spoke. She seemed to have a confidence in prayer that I had lost. Her offer wasn’t a guarantee that everything would be okay, but a show of support. I’d been so focused on finding the “right” way to pray that I’d forgotten an intangible effect of prayer. It builds community, even among strangers.

A few days later, I came across a passage in My Utmost For His Highest in which Oswald Chambers discusses the role of prayer.

You must learn to wrestle against the things that hinder your communication with God, and wrestle in prayer for other people….  Beware of lazily giving up. Instead, put up a glorious fight and you will find yourself empowered with His strength.

I’d forgotten the importance of wrestling through our doubts. We don’t need to have things all figured out before we begin a conversation with our Creator. But if we avoid the dialogue altogether, we’re missing out on the solace and empowerment that can be found in prayer.

There are still some days when I find it hard to pray for myself. In those moments, I think I’ll start by praying for Gia. 

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