I took the woman's hand in both of mine like some teenage Mother Theresa, and in a tone of false benevolence that haunts me to this day, I promised to pray for her.
When I think of misused prayer, I think of this moment. I think of the way my gut dragged all the way to Starbucks under the weight of some unnamable shame. I think of the way my own sticky-sweet voice cycled through my thoughts as I perused the menu of gourmet coffees.
I'll pray for you. I'll pray for you. I'll pray for you.
There was nothing wrong with offering prayer to a suffering woman. What was wrong was using prayer to weasel out of a difficult decision. I held up my reliance on God like a white flag, declaring that I was out of the fight and ready to pass the responsibility on to Someone else.
What I learned then, and what I am relearning every day in small ways, is that prayer is not passive. It is not about my personal weakness; it is about the strength I find when I meet with God. It is about the light He created within me and the light he brings out of me. It is about recognizing that God knows how to delegate; He has cleverly designed me to be capable of being the answer to the prayers I bring him.
I'm usually much more comfortable passing the buck on to my Higher Power. But what a blessing it is, and what an honor, to be His answer to another's prayer!
I ask that you make me Yours—
Not only your child,
Your wayward lamb—
But also Your instrument,
Your agent of change.
Teach me to surrender not to the darkness,
But to the light of possibility
As Your strength sustains me
And Your wisdom guides me.
For once, I will not shrink into the fear of insufficiency;
I will stand and face the darkness,
Assured of your support,
Praising You for this blessed duty.