It's early Sunday morning and I just get off the phone from talking to Mom. Saturdays and Sundays are her days to be busy in church-related activities. She was calling to let me know that she was running late to her appointments and to assure me that despite the fact the rain and dampness of yesterday has given way to significantly cooler temps this morning (which greatly affects to her major health problems, arthritis and COD), she is fine (all things considered) and she didn't want me to worry if she was late about calling to let me know she had arrived at her destination.
But during our conversation she related an interesting story that happened yesterday while she was working with a a preacher friend of hers and his wife. The preacher (a divine-healing believing holiness preacher) noticing her shortness of breath, slowness of movement, and the fact that she was about to lose her voice, told her he was going to pray for her. That's not unusual for people of that particular strand of faith.
What did interest me was mom's reaction. She told me explained to her preacher friend that, yes, by all means he should pray for her. Still, she said, nature would have to work its course. She told him she of course believes in prayer and felt that God could touch her, but it would likely be over time rather than instantaneously. Because, she said, we are subject to the laws of nature too, and just as we all must die someday in accordance with Nature's Law, infirmities follow a natural course as well.
Now that impressed me. And it seems to signal a change of thought with her regarding prayer. At least I can say that when I was a child and my family were immersed in Pentecostal Churchianity such talk would have been thought to display a distinct lack of faith.
During the past three years that my mom has been almost next door to me, we have held many conversations and exchanged ideas about religion and prayer. I like to think that maybe I have been instrumental in helping her modify some of her more crude or extreme beliefs.
I know after one extended discussion about prayer I lent her my copy of Jim Carrey's Bruce Almighty. I was impressed with the way Carrey's character, when given a portion of God's power, brought about some very negative results through an unwise misuse of it. For example, when he pulled the moon closer to enhance the romantic mood he was setting up for an evening with his girlfriend it had very bad unintended side-effects. The next day he was greeted by reports of tsunamis caused by the unusual moon activity of the night before. Did that not throw some light on how God should deal with our more misguided prayers? If not, surely the scene where Bruce (Carrey), in a frantic effort to catch up on the huge backlog of prayers, decides to just answer "yes" to all of them rather than considering the merits of each, with again unintended circumstances developing. Everyone won the lottery, just as they were praying to have happen, but because everyone did win, the prize was a pittance once divided among all the winners.
My mother fell in love with that movie and told me she watched it over and over, laughing out loud every time, before she returned it to me. Then she went to a nearby used book store and bought a copy for herself. I was afraid my main intent in turning her on to that movie had been lost in the sheer comedy of it.
The subject of prayer is a troublesome one for me. It was a childhood habit that I suppose I never really outgrew. During the coldest days of the season of my unbelief I pretty much quit praying - sort of. I would find myself talking out loud, usually grumbling about how sucky the world and life in it seemed to be so much of the time. I didn't then see those as prayers because I had lost faith in a God who could hear prayers and wasn't asking for a damned thing. But maybe those "why, God why?" prayers showed more faith than the God-as-genii prayers that I used to pray, knowing full well I was being selfish and frivolous.
I've noticed Mom doesn't tell me as often as she used to that she is praying for me. More often she just reminds me that she is "in my corner." I know she still does pray for me, but I'm sure those aren't prayers that I win the lottery and such. Mature faith doesn't obsess with God protecting us from the hardships of life which are common to all humans. I think Mom is as faith-full as ever. But I do notice a certain maturity to her thought. Perhaps I deserve no credit at all for that. Perhaps the years of living have done more to ground her faith in reality. Either way, she impresses me still. And I still appreciate her prayers as the expression of love and concern that they are.