I pray, like, a lot. Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing or my anxious nature, but basically I am literally living out that impossible sounding admonition from Scripture to “pray continually.” (1Thessalonians 5:17) When I wake up, I get on my knees just for a second or two to give the day to God. I do the ‘Jesus Calling’ devotional over my morning coffee and smoothie. I make the sign of the cross over the schools and homes of dear ones in the car on my way to teach my preschool music classes. I pray before starting each class. I say grace before eating, even, say, a granola bar. I stop and hold the hands of Mary on my way back from a run or a walk, say a few Hail Marys there, and give my kids to her protection once again. I stop and mentally put people and petitions under the altar in my church. I have a prayer board at home, and it contains names of loved ones and strangers, all facing their own trials. I read and underline scriptures every night in my One Year Bible, and I often pray the Rosary and go to daily Mass when I can.
I pray a lot. I’m not bragging. It’s kind of a problem, actually, when prayer feels more like a lever I’m pressing than the communion with God it’s supposed to be. In fact, you could say that my interactions with my students, the times I notice a beautiful sky, the times I look into the eyes of my dog and she looks back with limitless love … these are holier moments on some days than the literal litany of rote prayers I may offer. Sometimes, much holier.
I’ve learned that I can’t really make things happen with prayer, and that’s a late and surprising realization for me. It makes intercessory prayer challenging these days, as I question the value of it, trusting that God will take my effort and make a result that’s good eventually, even if it’s not at all what I asked for. I can spend all that time pushing on all those levers with my prayers, and in the end, all I have is what I had at the outset: a good God whom I can trust with my life and who never leaves me or mine alone. Ever.
I stopped to light candles at a grotto for my dear ones and felt the weight of how this regular discipline had become somewhat less prayerful and more obsessive. Still, as I made my way up the steps, I found an abundance of acorns crunching under my feet, and I received the message they were delivering.
Acorns are literal food falling from the skies for whatever squirrel might want to come along and take some. And I laughed at myself because God gives me stuff like this all the time, whether I notice or not.
Like the time there was a single sticker on the floor of a school in which I was working. A dragonfly and a purple flower, two symbols that evoke a feeling of my late mother and my late friend, Julie. Or the garden of mushrooms growing in a neighbor’s yard that reminded me of the magical nature of life. Or the two purple blooms on a wildflower in the path of my run one afternoon. Or the four tiny shoots that are growing from a paper anchor filled with wildflower seeds on my porch. It’s provision for me in the form of much-needed hope. After all, I can get my groceries from a store, and I do. I have no need to gather acorns, but I desperately need to gather up hope for those cold days when there’s none to be found. God gives me these bits, abundantly, and I hold onto them, and I’m glad of it.
I do pray a lot, but it’s the unbidden breaks of God into my everyday, ordinary life that so often make the difference for me. I feel Him helping, steering, and guiding, making all things new. Slowly, like a growing seed, and abundantly, like a sea of acorns underfoot, God provides.
Copyright 2018 Kerry Campbell