pray with him
In the early hours before the sun rises, we rise, and we’re so tired we move around in silence for a while, fumbling to make the bed, pressing back against sleepiness to dress for exercise before we find an excuse. We’ve tried so hard for intentionality with regard to first things—time with God, time with each other, time to take care of these bodies we’ve been given for earthbound motility.
In these moments when I’m really still waking, like some creature long absent from clarity, I feel exceedingly vulnerable. Even when it’s fairly warm, I want to cover myself with blankets, if only just partially. I want to wrap my arms in shawls and scarves. I’m like some newborn soul aching for the warmth of shelter in the womb–the unbroken cocoon–of the day.
I suppose that’s why our first words to each other always seem so raw, so completely unfiltered and fresh, even unexpected, as though we haven’t gotten used to our new voices. Our conversations never really end, though. In the morning, we continue where ever we left off last, and as we make breakfast, he tells me how life has stretched him to the edge lately, how he’s weary and wondering how, and of course, these are feelings I understand. In these first moments of the day, I give thanks to be the one who gets to know about how he feels, who gets to listen in the early hours before the house has begun to bloom, when the day is still just a bud and we have choices to make about how to root ourselves.
And then a thought, really more a nudge, like Spirit hands turning me: Pray with him.
I don’t pretend to understand all the mysteries of prayer or that exact way it enlightens us to the power we have, healing our sight, but I’m learning that these far from one-sided conversations with God access far more power than our human selves can begin to comprehend. In my most obtuse, lukewarm, and faithless moments, I imagine that I am merely speaking aloud or thinking carefully. The enemy loves to whisper that the intention of the human spirit is powerful enough of itself, but the truth is that I’ve never willed myself out of any even mildly troublesome thoughts, but that when I pray, something transformative happens to me. Prayer—mysteriously, formidably–changes things, and maybe that’s why someone or something doesn’t want us to pray.
No sooner have I the notion to pray over my husband, to stop and lay my hand upon his arm where he stands transferring neat slices of quiche onto our lake blue plates, then doubt slithers, serpentine. I wrap my hands around the coffee mug he’s filled for me and just look at him, my best friend, the man who knows and loves unfiltered, faulty, wild-hearted me, and I hesitate. I don’t know why; a thousand reasons present themselves in ridiculous and rapid succession. I am too tired to assert myself—though prayer is not the assertion of self but a submission to God; I am sure he doesn’t want to pray right now–because when I need to pray most I often darkly resent the suggestion that I should; and who knows what I could even say that would help the impossible things he feels–though it isn’t my words at all that bear significance (indeed, the Spirit even intercedes when I have no words to say) but our mutual effort to bend our blurry, weak-tired souls and seek the face of God.
I go to the drawer and lift out a table knife to spread whipped cream cheese on bagels we have toasted for the girls, anticipating their later sleep-drunk wandering to the table, and he lists for me the things weighing most heavily upon his heart. He carefully outlines the trouble he’s having with a clear view, and I nod. That’s a blindness with which I am acutely familiar. Pray with him.
I wander wordlessly to the cabinet and withdraw a bowl, measuring out some cereal for Adam, spoon-scooping some peanut butter from the jar to dollop on top. I put out napkins and vitamins, and I listen to my husband’s voice, feeling his burdens, heavy. Pray with him.
We shuttle the plates to the table, winding around each other quietly. He lifts a hand and rubs his eyes with those long, slender fingers I often hold in my own. The gray strands now flecking his hair at the sides shine like soft silver threads, lit by the kitchen bulbs, and he sighs, almost inaudibly.
And I know what you’re thinking, just pray already, right? But how many times has the Spirit told you to stop and pray and ridiculously, persistently you’ve resisted?
Kevin looks at me, letting me see all the weary in his eyes, telling me plainly how hard the morning feels. Pray with him. Now.
“I think we should pray,” I finally say, but only because the Spirit is such.a.nag, especially with hard-headed me, and I know that He will not let this alone. And I’m so thankful He doesn’t give up on me.
“You pray,” Kevin says quietly, evenly returning my gaze.
And so, finally, we bend our heads, and I ask God to strengthen my husband, to remind him that it’s not his power or ability that matters, to multiply the blessing of what he offers the way God and God alone always does. I call upon the Truth, but not eloquently. And I’m not sure if Kevin feels better at all when quietly I finish my prayer, but I do know that something powerful has happened, something the edges of which we can’t even see, something we can’t even fully understand. And I know that we’re always more tightly bound together because of the moments when we decide together to trust in our King.
When we lift our heads, I feel the surge of victory, the welling of strength, and I wonder: Why would the enemy fight so hard to keep us from praying if he weren’t so worried about the force of that weapon in our hands? Why would he convince us to say things like all I know to do is pray as if it’s a weak, nearly powerless action born of desperation? Why would the enemy whisper doubt and tempt us to hesitation when we feel inclined to pray with and for each other right out loud? Why, if prayer doesn’t knock the enemy to his knees, if it doesn’t fling him clear across the room, would he work so hard to convince us that the only prayer requests we can share with each other must be about an illness or something so far removed from us as not to imply that we’re the ones in any real need? Prayer is war, and it’s easy to think strong when I’m still battle bold, but maybe that’s why Word says I should never set aside the fighting. Because to to be sure; if the enemy can succeed in convincing me to not to pray over my husband, he need only lightly suggest caution to keep me from praying over someone not so close to me.
And frankly, I’m sick of faithlessly laying aside His power, as if the fact that it’s in me makes it less effective.
The first thing I notice when we finish praying and gather ourselves to go is that no longer do I feel unsheltered and unprotected like some cowering new-born, wet-winged creature. That vulnerability that always makes me want to cover myself in the morning, now wrapped up in prayer, now so carefully covered, has ceased its distraction. And all I feel now is resolved and ready.