July 27, 2014
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Romans 8:26-39
Genesis 29:15-28
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b

When We Cannot Pray
Proper 12 | OT 17

Click here for the full installment.

Sandra Herrmann
"When We Cannot Pray" by Sandra Herrmann

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When We Cannot Pray
by Sandra Herrmann
Romans 8:26-39

Jean lay in bed. Her hospital room was an isolation unit, so there was nothing to brighten it up. Even a greeting card might carry in bacteria, and flowers were absolutely forbidden. She felt restless, even though she could do hardly anything. Getting out of bed by herself was a "forbidden activity" -- she felt light-headed even laying down. All she could do was watch TV or listen to music. Reading had become practically impossible ever since her first round of chemotherapy. There was something about the chemicals they used that made her feel stupid and forgetful. She picked at the sheet that was folded back over the blanket.

"Trapped," she thought to herself. "Can't trust myself to sit up, need help to stand, need help to get to the bathroom. Can't even feed myself well." She looked down at the mess of spots on the heavy bib the nurse had fastened to her hospital gown with clips. Her hands were too shaky to get the food into her mouth without drips. She sighed just as the nurse returned to her room.

"Having a hard time?" the nurse asked sympathetically. At least this nurse didn't smile as though she were in a toothpaste commercial.

"Yes." She had nothing more to say. The nurse meant well, she knew. But how could she possibly know what this was like? She went home at night, away from the smells and mess that was the price Jean was paying to stay alive. Jean wanted to go home too and eat a good meal that wouldn't taste like a tin pot and keep it down. On the other hand, she realized, just thinking about the smell of a broiling steak made her nauseated. She quickly took a deep breath but that no longer worked.

When she had recovered, and the nurse had her cleaned up again, Jean collapsed against the pillows. Where was God when she needed him most? She had asked so many people to pray for her, and they had asked their friends and fellow church-members to pray for her. But she could not pray for herself.

It wasn't that she didn't think God loved her. It was just that she couldn't feel God anywhere near her. She was used to closing her eyes and instantly feeling that presence before she even said a word. But not now. All she could feel was tired. She leaned back and the tears welled up again. What could she say to God, other than complaints? She had always tried to start any prayer time by thanking God for all her blessings, starting with her grandkids. But it seemed that every time she pictured them, she started to cry again. She so wanted to watch her eldest granddaughter be confirmed. More, she wanted to see her go to prom, get married, have children of her own. The doctor, however, made no promises. She thought of each of the grandchildren, from Moses, who at age four had told her he had decided to be a pastor when he grew up (!) to Denver, who had, at age 11, already started a small band in his parents' garage. All that potential. She wanted to see it all come to fulfillment. The tears began to fall. She couldn't call them back. All she could do was wipe them off her face before they dropped onto her gown. She reached for a tissue and with a groan pulled out the last one in the box.... >>Click here for the full installment.

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Proper 12 | OT 17