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A couple of months after Sawyer died, I was on Facebook and a friend from high school reached out to me privately. We weren’t close, but that’s the thing about grief. It draws in other grievers. I have to think it’s in part because so few people seem to understand grief so when we are grieving, others who have grieved seek to offer comfort known by one who has experienced grief. My friend had watched her very faithful parents die slow, painful, and complicated deaths. She heard their prayers for their suffering to be relieved and it didn’t come in time. She watched them die over a long period of time and the journey she witnessed wasn’t pretty. In the end, it was a journey she felt robbed them of their dignity and her of her deep and abiding faith in God.
As we messaged back and forth about the pain of loss, she said, “Well, I hope in the end you don’t lose your faith because watching my parents die cost me mine.” I am so grateful for her sharing such an intimate part of her life with me. It is something I needed to hear. It is counsel I have held to tightly as I have grieved Sawyer leaving this world too soon. It has been hard work to keep my faith and something I actively attend to every single day.
The gospel of Jesus Christ anchors us, it gives us hope for the eternities and provides a foundational knowledge about the afterlife and joy we will feel being reunited with our loved ones. Faith anchors us but what are the tools we need here and now to get through to that point, to make it to the next step, to endure to the end? For those who experience grief at any level, what do we do with our mortal selves until then? For me it is likely another forty years on earth, for others even longer. What do we do, how do we cope? Those are all questions with no concrete answers, but they are questions I have heard many faithful grievers ask.
I was already struggling with my own prayers since Sawyer died. Did I continue to pray for Sawyer? If so, for what was I asking? Never mind the elephant in the room in regards to prayer. We had prayed in the hospital with all of our might. Many people prayed across the country and put Sawyer’s name on prayer rolls in the temple. People more worthy and more faithful than me prayed for Sawyer. Prayer after prayer was offered in Sawyer’s behalf, even prayers offering our own lives in exchange for his. Intimate, desperate, pleading prayers were offered for Sawyer to live. Sawyer died.
I struggled with prayer and what I should actually be asking for in my prayers. We are told to pray over our crops and fields, for our enemies, for the mundane and tangible, for things we have control over and things we have no control over. Why? For a long time I couldn’t reconcile what I should be asking for in my prayers because clearly my big ask was denied so why bother with the little things? I finally came to a resolution, and, for me and for now, it works. Maybe you can get something out of it too.
Prayer should be more about building a relationship with God, not trying to get answers or have God grant your requests, using God as your personal genie. I think about my earthly relationships. How do I build a relationship, whether it be with my spouse who I interact with daily or with a friend who lives across the country who I only see once a year? For any relationship I have to engage with that person. I have to open myself up and share my thoughts and feelings and tell them all the big things and little things that occur in my life. I tell them I don’t want the rain to come because it will ruin my party, but if the rain comes, I don’t blame them. I ask them to help me move the party inside. I’ve decided for me, that is what prayer is about, building an intimate relationship with God.
Asking to communicate and open the dialogue between us, not asking, crossing my fingers and toes, I get what I ask for from Him. As I have read and read and read more counsel from my church leaders and religious leaders of many faiths, I stumbled across this idea. When Christ was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed for God to take away His suffering when He cried, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). Christ continued in pain, bleeding from every pore as He took upon the sins of the world.
Did God the Father not answer His prayer? He continued in pain and asked again, for the pain to be removed, knowing that was not how He would achieve the will of the Father. His prayer (“Thy will be done”) was answered but His request (to remove the pain and sorrow) was denied. After Christ had taken upon Himself all of my sins, all of yours, all of everyone’s, He surrendered His spirit. The idea is that there are times in our lives when, because we do not know the end game, we will ask for things and God will not give us what we request but He will indeed hear our prayer.
Even when the answer we want doesn’t come or look the way we think it should. We can still use our prayers to build a relationship with God, even if it is a tenuous relationship at times.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!
The following was taken from the book, Heartbroken, But Not Broken, currently on sale at cedarfort.com.