Be Careful What You Pray for, Preacher
Toward the end of her life, my grandmother became a little grumpy about a few of her friends. On a visit home from seminary, I turned to her and asked, “Grandma, would you like me to have them smited for you?”
She paused. “YOU CAN DO THAT?!?!”
“No, I can’t do that,” I said.
“Well, I wasn’t sure. I’m Catholic, you know. I’m not sure what you pastors can do.”
Yesterday, after church, I proposed a trip to the grocery store. I never do that. I hate trips to the grocery store, especially on holidays. I prefer to do my shopping late at night when everyone else is in bed and the staff is busy restocking the shelves. As soon as we reached the store, I started stuffing all kinds of fruit into the cart while Ale just stood back and watched in horror. Ale doesn’t eat fruit. Too sticky. I usually skip the fruit as well. Too much sugar. But here I was, with a basket filling with apricots, mangos, pineapple, apples, and cherries. I just shrugged. Then I added meat to the cart, stuff we don’t eat like bratwurst. Ale looked at me again with a burning question in his brown eyes. Again, I shrugged.
Ale ran to the store again later (he loves shopping), and came home with another odd assortment of stuff we don’t eat. He had crackers and cheddar cheese as well as a bag of potato chips. Potato chips? Weird. He said, “Maybe we’ll have a holiday tomorrow, but I really don’t expect it.”
Ale has learned that bad stuff always happens on holidays. He watched me work on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, New Years Eve, and Easter. He knows. The phone always rings on holidays. It’s not something to be resented; it’s just something to accept and expect.
The phone rings this morning, and it is someone I have never met that needs something. They really need it. Without going into any detail at all, let me just say that fruit salad, bratwurst, and a potato chip-topped casserole with cheddar cheese were the perfect additions to what they needed.
As I stood at the counter gleefully cutting up fruit with extremely sticky hands, I realized that this was an answered prayer. Yesterday, we prayed for the lonely, the hurting, and the lost. We prayed that God would stick in our way the people who needed exactly what we had, people who needed to hear about grace and love in our own words. I had to put down my knife and thank God for answering that prayer so quickly and obviously.
I also prayed for rain, which Ale reminded me as the downpour began last night. “If anyone complains about rain on Facebook tomorrow,” he said, “I’m telling them to blame you.”
Pastors do not have any power to answer prayer. Our prayers aren’t heard any more than anyone else’s, no matter what my Catholic boyfriend and grandmother think and thought. The power is God’s, our loving God who does answer prayer. Sometimes prayer are answered quickly, but often God’s time takes longer than our patience and we give up or forget. I don’t know when I will stop being surprised by prayers answered. I think I need to pray more, expect more, and be careful what I pray for.