What can I pray for specifically? It’s the question many of us get so very frequently and the question that can throw me into a panic attack.
For decades I have struggled physically, mentally, and emotionally with my health. There are so many moving parts to having a chronic illness. Your work life (or lack there of), daily symptoms, myriad of doctors, your constant fight for validation, the depression that inevitably comes, the exhaustion that never seems to release, and the relationships your health impacts are all a part of this thing we call chronic illness. If we are lucky we know what’s going on physically about half of the time. That’s if we are lucky. That’s if we have the right team of medical professionals, family and friends, and a willingness to be our own advocate. However, that still leaves another half of our lives that are in some sort of chaos.
I’ve pretty much made my home in chaos. I had two choices; embrace the reality of chaos or give up entirely. That giving up thing sounds like relief a lot of the time. Yet, I continue to try and embrace the chaos. I search for the gifts that this life brings. The family that supports me unwaveringly, the friends that laugh with me, the Spirit that surprises me, the Divine that shapes me. These are all things I am grateful for. I am also incredibly thankful for all of those people who pray for me.
And yet…those prayers that somehow require the pray-er to know intimate details of my life and/or health bother me. I have an inner circle who know basically all that I deal with. It is an intimate circle, family, spiritual leaders, and a few close friends. It’s possible that only 4 people aside from myself know the full extent and even that is questionable because no one else lives inside me. No one else lives like this. They live beside me. They live with me and love me and that is close. Most of the time, it is close enough.
However, there are always people who want to know more. They want those gritty details. What was your dosage of this medicine? What are your doctors looking for? How are you surviving financially? What’s the worst symptom? Are the meds what make you gain all that weight? How long will it take for this treatment to start working? If the treatment worked why are you still sick?
Y’all, prayers for each other don’t need to be a list of all the juicy details of our lives. The Holy knows us already. The Holy has a shaping in mind. Not everyone who prays needs all the information. How many times must we be stripped down in front of everyone in order for others to feel like they can pray appropriately?
For years I’ve told people that they could specifically pray for wholeness in my life. Still, that refrain has become exhausting because either people forget or they still want the details.
I often wonder what our prayer lives reflect about us. Are we list makers? Are we gossip spreaders under the guise of holiness? Are we a people who recognize the molding presence when we place ourselves in prayer? Maybe we are all of those. Maybe we should be wary about some of that or even all of that.
It’s terrifying to go into prayer knowing that we could be shaped anew. Our prayers may not always shape those we pray for but they always shape who we are. That’s the truth.
So why do we need such detailed prayers? Is it just to comfort ourselves? Do we think the Divine will pay attention more aptly if we seem more informed? I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is that I’m going to stop asking people to pray for me and instead ask them to pray with me. I still want wholeness. That is still where the Holy leads me. And in prayer together a step towards wholeness is gifted to us all. One prayer with each other at a time.