pray with me
Zoe grabs my hand before I turn.
We stand on the threshold looking out at the world. Clouds wrap thick, dove-gray over the warmth of the sky, until all sight takes on a stormy cast. Winter lingers, and I want to reach out and touch the knobby buds on the branches of the tree in front of me, to feel the ripeness of promise in my fingers. This time of year, I start giving thanks for signs of resurrection.
“Wait. Pray with me.” Before we go back inside, she means, while yet we stand facing the knobby tree, the gray sky, the wet street. We had watched Kevin and Adam round the corner, waving, blowing kisses with our hands and whispering blessings over their day. In this house, we bless departures and anticipate arrivals, One above all others.
Zoe threads her fingers through my own and pulls me closer, reaching with her other arm to hook Riley about the waist, and I turn to see them, my daughters, leaning into each other. Riley’s hair falls on Zoe’s shoulder in loose golden ribbons. Already, they have closed their eyes, have tilted their peaceful faces down and into each other. And it touches me, the way prayer makes tight cords of separate threads.
I close my eyes, turning toward my girls, squeezing Zoe’s hand, and she begins, “Lord, please just watch over my day at school. Help me to be able to concentrate on my work and not to have headaches or earaches today. Please, just be with me.” That prayer makes me smile, mom-thankful, that she intones the most basic longing of the soul over her everyday, not just her moments of crisis. Just be with me. She reminds me of something Moses once said to God: If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up (Exodus 33: 15). I’ll go, as long as I know you go with me. And He does. He always has. He always will be with us—in the fiery furnace, in the storm, even in the valley of the shadow of darkness. And I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Psalm 23:4). He is God with us, Immanuel (Matthew 1:23), who has promised never will I leave (Joshua 1:5), and so, the Spirit seals us as His (Ephesians 1:13) and indwells (Romans 8:11). In the shelter of prayer, the Spirit reminds us that this is the basis of our need, the bottom line for our uncertainty. And the action of prayer itself answers this heartfelt utterance, reminding us of Truth. I can go as long as I know you’re with me.
Then go, because I AM.
Bent into my daughter, I whisper my agreement–Yes–because all of His promises are yes in Christ (2 Cor.1:20)–yes right into her hair, and together we say Be with us and together we touch His face and together we grip promise in our needy, open fingers. She prays over her day at school, calling the power of the Almighty God right into her day, turning over to Him illness that kept her home this week, the vulnerability she felt in the face of pain and physical weakness. It’s seems like the tiniest thing, but it’s never small to fall into His arms. It’s never a weakness to practice the Presence of God.
Wait. Pray with me, she says. It frames a relationship another way to fold into God together. With me weaves cord (Eccl. 4:12)—Him with us, you with me—it shatters lonely fear. She grabs my hand, and I wonder why we all don’t do this more, why we say pray for me and walk away lonely more often than we reach for each other and say pray with me, right now, before we go…so we can go.
It touches me, the tenderness of Zoe’s voice as she speaks beyond the deceptive veil of human sight, with the gentle-powerful words of a daughter of God. It is an echo, something gathered, a new chord in a history of relationship thrumming with this life-changing witness: He is come. He is with us. Yes, Lord, be with us. His heart beats the reconciliation of all things to Himself. And this is all I want for my children, their lives woven straight into the fabric of truth. Indeed, I have no greater joy (3 John 1:4).
Amen–so be it, and we lift our heads again, our eyes open to the thick, wrapped sky. No storm can cover over Truth; no Winter lingering can stop Promise rising. Riley lifts a hand, just briefly, flicking her gaze well past the knobby tree. Hi, God, she says. Hi, Jesus. He equips her as a greeter, and she greets Him too, our hearts still opened wide, and I do not miss the smile in it, even as the simple power of her acknowledgement captures me. She has heard the whisper of a voice like rushing water, saying again,
Yes, I AM. I will be. I am always with you.
My house will be called a house of prayer…Isaiah 56:7
You heavens above, rain down my righteousness;
let the clouds shower it down.
Let the earth open wide,
let salvation spring up…Isaiah 45:8