January 29, 2023

A Little More About Prayer

The daily news of worldwide events makes me wonder how the human spirit endures so much torment-both physically and psychically. Humankind is constantly besieged with unbearable anguish, and for many the suffering goes on for months, years and in some instances, a lifetime.

It has always been the minister’s purpose to transmute their flocks’ pain and suffering into character. While suffering may indeed build character, I can’t help wondering why we are so reluctant to get angry at God. Maybe the creator wants to know how we really feel.

The words attributed to the dying Jesus as he endured three hours of raging human pain, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me” are the most passionately honest words found in Scripture. This cry, born out of human despair, poignantly describes the human situation.

Thinking about Jesus’ cry of desolation transports me back to an incident that happened a few years ago.  I was entering my home through the backyard and noticed a tiny mouse lying on the step. It was either ill or badly hurt, but alive.  I knew the mouse was dying, and that I should end its suffering.  However, I was too cowardly to kill the little mouse.

Although I don’t believe the Creator is up there somewhere floating in the clouds, I remember looking up and yelling at God, “do something, this is your responsibility.”  When I looked down, the mouse was dead.  It is curious, but that tiny mouse symbolized all the horror, violence, misery and injustice that I see in our world.

While I remember feeling rage towards God, I also felt close to my Creator for the very first time. It was several months later that I understood what transpired on the back step. I was visiting a friend who had been seriously ill for the past six months. She had cancer in her lung, her kidney and her liver. Throughout her illness she appeared stoic and prayed frequently. Members of her church visited with her and prayed with her regularly.

On this particular day, my friend was very weak-but not too weak to tell me about a dream that she had the previous night. In the dream she was carrying a giant gift box tied with a bright red ribbon. She was carrying the gift to a church at the top of a hill. As she climbed the steps to the church, she kept falling backwards as the box was too big and cumbersome.

After an arduous climb, my friend finally reached the door to the church. She had a terrible time opening the door as she would not put the box down-not for an instant. Once inside the church, she could not take a seat because the box was hitting people in the head.

Finally, an old man with a long beard and wearing a white robe came over to her and suggested that she simply put the box on the alter. My friend did not want to give up the box so she left the church. As she was lugging the big box down the steps she awakened from her dream.

My friend asked if I knew what the dream meant. I in turn asked her what was in the gift box. She claimed that she didn’t know so I suggested that we take a look inside.  Together, we imagined ourselves untying the big red bow and looking inside.

With tears streaming down her fragile face, she looked into the box and told me that it was filled with garbage. Spontaneously, she cried out “what have I done to deserve this? Where are you? I can’t stand this anymore. I hate you God!”

My friend did not need for me to interpret her dream. She understood, at the deepest level, that the garbage symbolized all the negative feelings that she was denying God. She understood also that the wise man in her dream was urging her to leave the box of garbage on the altar as a gift for God.

The next morning, my dying friend smiled as I entered her room. With her mouth so dry and cracked that she could hardly speak, she told me that during the night she looked across the room at the wall facing her bed and saw a beautiful young man with long glowing hair. He was standing in a field of wild flowers-beckoning to her.

She said to me, “he has come to take me to God.” My beloved friend slipped into a coma that night and died two days later. Her dream, her tearing passion, and her vision helped me to understand that a despondent cry to God is a beautiful prayer of trust and of healing.

Implied in her prayer was an affirmation of faith and respect for the integrity of God. Her prayer showed enough trust in God’s love to express her rage for the horrors that she simply did not understand.

Alison Nichols, M.Div.
Essex, CT