I can't help but wonder (For the Sex and the City fans...I sound like Carrie Bradshaw)....Does God listen to all prayers or just the ones from those who don't play hookie from Sunday School? I'm not talking about just sleeping in on Sunday morning....
Every Sunday, for years, my mom, dad, and sister Gail would go to church at Gardenside Baptist Church. My mom would sometimes teach Sunday school and I remember her often working on art projects for vacation bible school. One day, the pastor knocked on our door. I remember thinking it was really weird that Brother Heard would come to our house. He quoted some scriptures (which of course I don't know) about tithing and how my parents weren't measuring up. Mom was infuriated. I mean seething mad. So mad that I remember thinking that all of the time she spent volunteering to teach Sunday school, drive us to hospitals and nursing homes to comfort the sick and lonely, were suddenly forgotten by God. She had used words I hadn't heard yet. She said, "That's it. I'm never going back there again."
Well, I didn't want to quit going to church. Not because I was overly anxious to praise God. At seven or eight years old, I had a crush on the youth minister. I remember Bother Gary on his knees at the front of the aisle during the weekly "invitation". The children in the congregation were singing Just As I Am. It was Mother's Day and the children's church was packed. All I remember was seeing Gary on his knees, holding a little girl's hand and whispering in her ear. I didn't know why they were up there but I knew I wanted him on his knees holding my hand and whispering sweet nothings in my ear. It turned out that because of my desperate need for attention from this kind and gentle man, I was getting dunked in the baptismal pool in front of the entire church the following Easter Sunday. My parents attended that service. It might have been the last one we attended as a family.
A year or two later, after my crush had moved to another church, the church bus would pick up Gail and me in front of the house. Mom and Dad would give us a dollar each for the offering plate. Sometimes, we'd skip church and spend our tithes at the Donut Days next door. Mom and Dad would ask what we learned at church and we'd say, "Eh. Same old stuff." Meanwhile, our stomachs ached from having three donuts each.
Since then, I've said many prayers. Some of them were of gratitude and thanks, but most were because I needed something: "Lord, please don't let my parents get divorced"..."God...please save Jeff's brother Gary." (being a pastor with a previous near death experience, I figured God would HAVE to save him.)...."Please help my friend and co-worker Tom..."...."Jesus, don't take my friend Wanda,"...."Please don't do this to Jeff again and take his brother Phil."...."Oh God, please give Lauren the strength to make it through this interview so she can get into the Interpreter Training Program."...."Please comfort my dear friend Liz who's mother was murdered."....and then, for Jeff's one remaining brother, "Please heal Jeff's brother, Steve"....and for Gail's husband Shane who was in a horrific car accident..."Please let him live...soon downgraded to "please save his arm..."..then to "take away his pain." There are so many more. But my most fervent and desperate prayers were for my parents. My prayers have never been more desperate than they were in the 1994, when Daddy was dying of cancer and in 2003 when Mom was battling emphysema. When they both died, everyone said it was God's will. They said God has a plan for each of us. Does it change when we pray? Just maybe that tumor was only a cyst and the radiologist was wrong. Was that too much to ask for?
My younger sister Gail and me, waiting for the church bus on Easter Sunday, 1974.