My own ancestors--just a couple generations back and then ever backward from there—lived a life of hunger, cold, toothache, body odor, and high infant mortality. I have everything that any of those ancestors could ever have prayed for. So what possible right do I have to pray for help on a college exam or with a work project or to be on time to a recital? Isn’t that disrespectful of me and a waste of God’s time?
I’m glad I got over that.
I don’t remember who helped me get this straight in my head. It might have been a home teacher or a friend or a sibling. I can’t recall their face. But I remember a conversation about God’s infinite love and infinite capacity. I was asked to think of my own children. As a father and a nurse, wouldn’t I be happy to help my kids with small things like drawing and learning the alphabet even though so much of my professional time went to helping people with much worse problems?
Plus, unlike me, God doesn’t have any bandwidth limitation for how much attention and assistance He can give. So of course He wants to help.
So now I pray. All the time. Even for very small things. It’s been an incredible blessing to me.
My faith has always been tricky and elusive. Unlike the solid foundation of faith that some friends and family have, mine has often been more like a candle in a dark room: a flicker of hope for what wonderful things might prove true despite all other doubt and confusion. The largest articles of faith still prove elusive to me. I hope for them but do not grasp them.
Prayer, though, is different. I believe in prayer like I believe in eating lunch or going for a jog. I believe in it like I believe that I’m in love with Wendy. It’s a matter of fact.
If ever there has been a time to pray, it’s been in these last several months. My work life has extended beyond my capacity. Beyond even my capacity to fake it. My responsibilities have expanded and my list of tasks has multiplied. I’ve come to a crossroads point where I need to change the way I organize and delegate. I need to learn to prioritize in a different way. I need to ignore certain wonderful opportunities to focus on other, slightly better ones.
And, more than anything, I’ve found that I need to pray.
So I have frequently found myself on my knees in the last several months. Especially on those frequent occasions when there’s nothing else I can do on my own. In those times, I feel like the Brother of Jared on the mountain. I’ve polished all the stones I can find and I’ve carried them up as high as the mountain goes. But now I need the finger of God to bridge the insurmountable gap between my own best efforts and the miraculous outcome I actually need.
Time after time, the prayers are answered. Every time.
Last week, I had just a short trip out and back to San Francisco again. I didn’t bring any clothes or gear for an overnight stay, which would have been impractical anyway since the whole city was booked for the upcoming Superbowl.
I worked my long day, had dinner with my boss, and then went to the airport. I strolled happily to the gate without any rush at all before I finally looked at a sign and saw the words CANCELLED FLIGHT.
Cancelled flight? What does that even mean? Why and wherefore?
No one could tell me more than what the sign said. When I asked the gate agent what it meant when it said “cancelled flight,” he looked at me dimly and said, “It means that the flight was cancelled.” And that was that.
I was stuck with nowhere to go, no pajamas, no fresh clothes, no dental floss, and no desire whatsoever to stay in the Bay Area that night. And there was no later flight. No flight until the next day at mid-morning, which would also disrupt my work day.
I had a meltdown I regret. And then I got ahold of myself. I called Wendy to look for other local flights and asked her to pray. She found a flight out of Oakland, a mere 45 minutes away. But the flight left in 90 minutes, so it would be very tight.
For this to work—for me to get home that night—a lot had to go right:
- I had to get a ticket on the Oakland-to-Boise flight with our after-hours travel agent
- I had to cancel the original flight
- The travel agent had to bypass the normal Vice President-level approval for the switch or I had to get ahold of a vice president very quickly
- The ticket had to deliver to me electronically before I got there
- My taxi driver had to get through bad traffic in record speed
- The security line at Oakland had to be short and fast
- The gate at Oakland had to be near the security line
- I had to make sure I didn’t run out of phone battery during all that
As my taxi driver hit the freeway, Wendy and I started texting:
Traffic was terrible. As soon as we hit the San Mateo Bridge, we came to an almost complete stop and inched along for a painful 15 minutes. This was agonizing. But other things started to work out. I got the tickets exchanged. The travel agent didn’t insist on a vice president approval for the exchange. There was still a lot left to do, but those were big pieces. Meanwhile my driver, sensing my situation, pushed aggressively through every opening he could find.
I hurriedly paid the cab fare and ran inside. The security lines were completely open. I was the only one there. I ran through, got my scan and ran up the stairs to run right into my gate. It was the very first gate at the top of the stairs.
I took a selfie of the moment because it was too wonderful to miss. The lighting is bad and I look tired and sweaty. But you can see the pure joy in my eyes.
Those are all small things. But I was enormously grateful for every one of them. And while there’s so very much I still don’t know or understand about the Gospel, it sure reminded me of how fully I believe in its everyday miracles.