I write many of my most intense prayers.
When I am feeling something strongly and need to pray, if the circumstances allow I immediately sit down at my computer and start typing. For a long time I didn’t consider this to be prayer at all – more like journaling, perhaps. But over time I realized that I wrote these “journals” as letters, directly to God, and I understood that this was an intense form of prayer for me.
Since these prayers usually only spontaneously occur when I am feeling deeply about something and need to reach out to God and exhaust myself right then, I am terrible about preserving them in any orderly fashion. Usually, once finished and desiring either to rest or to listen to God for a response, I save them under a random title like “God” or “Thoughts” or “Prayer” to who-knows-where on my computer and sometimes, occasionally, forget they ever existed.
So imagine my surprise tonight when I stumbled on a seven-page screed I had written to God several months ago and had somehow managed in the interim to entirely forget about.
The title was, in my fashion, “Prayer for Help” (and aren’t they all?) but when I opened it, I was surprised by the content. As I read, I recalled exactly the circumstances in which I had written it: during a time of stress and frustration at my job, when a particular colleague was driving me to the brink of my endurance, and when I did not feel that I could bear anything else without breaking.
In this prayer I had written, I had asked God for three things: 1) to change my attitude, 2) to give me opportunities and a chance to feel the burden lighten at work, and 3) for a very, very specific request regarding a situation I did not want to occur.
Imagine how stunned I was, reading it, to realize that 1) my attitude has much improved with God’s forgiveness and His grace in working with me; 2) I have had a slew of opportunities, and my burdens have lightened; and 3) that he did indeed prevent the dreaded situation from ever occurring. In fact, what I had feared might happen had literally never been mentioned again since I wrote the prayer despite seeming nearly inevitable.
I am not amazed God answered the prayers. But I amazed that I forgot what I prayed, and I am amazed that, because I forgot, I missed noting or even being grateful for the very clear intervention of God in my life. And it made me wonder what else I miss, or forget from sheer humanness. I cannot possibly record every prayer I make, and neither can anyone else; we cannot possibly remember every prayer we have ever prayed.
It stands to reason that there exists a multitude of God’s graces that we will literally never realize or witness: a bin of unopened gifts.
To some degree, this is inevitable. The human mind is frail and fragile; it forgets. God knows this, and this has never stopped God from giving. God always give more, and His giving is sourced in His abundance and love, not in our ability to receive it, recognize it, or even notice it. I am grateful, for that.
And yet it prompts me to be more mindful. I am really quite appalled that I would have prayed so fervently for something, seen it answered, and not even known for some months hence. But the days pass, and I am often busy and preoccupied. Finding an answered prayer that passed me by was a strong reminder that no matter how busy I get I ought to pause and reflect on God’s working in my day – not just in the moment, but over time, and with the desires of my heart.
Perhaps you, too, keep written prayers – or a prayer journal. Perhaps your blog even serves that purpose. If so, find some time this weekend to flip back back back through the pages and read some of the old entries. Who were you, when you were writing? What was happening? And who are you now? What has God done and changed? Give yourself the gift of sitting and observing for a while.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll likely be astonished.