What a difference a day makes. On Monday I was looking and feeling like the queen, all smiles and big flower-adorned hats and blog awards. Then yesterday disaster struck. No more yellow suits and royal heels and acceptance speeches. Yesterday I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn't want to get out of my pyjamas. I didn’t want to do anything. I was sick. I did lots of moaning and groaning. Enough detail?  Have I set the scene? Can I now tell you what I was thinking about as I was lying on the sofa waiting to die?

Yes, there I was moaning and groaning and hoping I was going to feel better as soon as possible. But the hours passed without improvement before a thought occurred to me: Maybe I should pray for some help. Why do I always forget to do the obvious? This made me think about prayer in general. Why do we pray for specific things? If we’ve placed our lives in God’s hands and accept His plan for them, surely we don’t need to ask Him for anything? “I know You’ve got everything planned out for me but could You just change one little detail, please? I’d rather not suffer today. Could You perhaps make me better… quickly?”

And when we pray for other people, surely God already knows exactly what’s best for them too. Now I know we all pray such things as, “Please make Harry better as soon as possible… if it is Your Will.” We’re willing to accept whatever God decides, but hasn’t He already decided before we arrive with our prayer requests? He knows best. Can God’s mind be changed by our prayers?

“Let’s get as many people to pray for her as possible. I’m going to pray really hard!” Does God change His mind because of the number of prayers we offer? “Well, I was going to let her suffer all day but I see she’s managed to get 100 people to pray for her, so I’ll cut the illness short. Any minute now, she’s going to feel much better.”

As I was mulling this over, in between groans, I did consider logging into Facebook and telling everyone about my poor stomach: “Please pray for me! And quickly!” But I didn’t. I just continued moaning and thinking.

And I suddenly thought, “Hey! I should be offering up all this pain. This is valuable. It’s like praying.” People pray for the suffering, and the suffering pray for the people via their pain. Prayers going back and forth, sort of cyclic.

Then this image came to mind... I am lying on my bed offering up my pain which is necessary in some mysterious way for the salvation of the world. I am filling up an imaginary grace bucket. Every moan and groan I offer acceptingly helps fill that bucket with grace which God uses. At the same time, (if I’d asked for prayers) everyone else is offering up their prayers for me. Could their prayers fill up my grace bucket too? The more they put in, the less I have to provide for myself, the less I have to suffer. When the bucket is full, my pain comes to an end and I feel better. Of course I could continue suffering if that is God’s Will. 

But I didn’t. I woke up this morning feeling much better.

Today I had another thought: Does God, because time means nothing to Him, make His perfect plans, taking into account all those prayers He knows are going to be said?

Have I confused you? I know I have confused myself. Writing about prayer and deep thoughts is just not my thing. I’m not even very good at praying. I really should stick to light stuff. But illness does strange things to a person. It brings forth all kinds of unexpected thoughts... unexpected muddled thoughts.

Now I'm thinking maybe I should just delete this post and go write about taking out the garbage. And I would, except I'm curious. I would like to know how prayer works. Do you know? Can you help me out? Or are you as confused as me?

I looked just like this dog yesterday!

Image: Neapolitan Mastiff Lucy by Tim Dawson (CC BY-SA 2.0)C BY-SA 2.0)

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  1. Our minds must have been cast from the same mold.

    I have no real trouble "getting" how prayers of worship and commitment "work." Adoration, thanksgiving, giving my heart to God - no problem. But asking for things....? A different story. I have struggled with "how this works" since I came to REAL faith in God 34 years ago. And yet - I have SEEN real answers to prayer, and had some amazing out of the blue "nudges to pray" countless times in those years. Funny - I was just thinking of this very thing last night.

    But one thing I know is that intercessory prayer DOES "work." I just have to keep letting go of puzzling out "how." I just consider it a mystery, and figure I can't understand it because my human mind does not have the capacity for the how of it... like a small child can't understand how a TV works, no matter how much explaining we might do.

    I do love what you wrote about the grace buckets. That actually helps me a lot... more than most things I've ever heard on this! (minds from the same mold :) )

    I'll be "watching this space" for wisdom others might have to offer! (and I'm VERY glad you're feeling better, Sue)

    1. Nancy,

      Like you, I really do believe we have to pray for each other, despite not understanding how it all works. I was just wondering if it is 'better' to pray for grace rather than a particular outcome, leaving that in God's hands.

      When I was grieving after Thomas died, I did a lot of "please make me feel better" praying. Then I decided that God knew exactly how I was feeling. He was allowing me to feel this way so I started praying, "I accept how I'm feeling because You have allowed me to feel this way. But please send me grace to bear it because without it I won't survive." And you know what? Gradually things got better. My heart started to heal. The same thing happened when I was praying for another baby. I stopped asking for a baby and started to ask for the grace to accept the situation as it was right at that moment. Of course I now have two more children! I wonder sometimes if it is better for us to live in the moment, being able to accept what God sends, trusting in Him and feeling at peace, rather than always yearning for what we haven't got or setting our hearts on a particular outcome and praying for that. I think that would require lots of grace!

      So I definitely think we need to pray and ask for grace. But then again, I think of a human father wanting to give things to his children to see their delight. Is God also waiting to give us what we'd like? I've heard some friends, who are cleverer than me, say this is true. We could be missing out on so many delights because we never think to ask for them.

      Grace buckets... I work best in simple images! I'm never going to be a proper spiritual writer!

  2. Interesting! You have me thinking now. I really don't know what to think! It is one of the things I guess we will never know.

    1. Ora,

      Prayer definitely is a mystery! I guess we normally just pray, knowing we don't need to understand in order for our prayers to be effective. It's interesting to mull over the topic though!

      Thank you so much for your comment!

  3. I have wondered some of those same things--like, doesn't God already know what we need, want, deserve?
    Do we tire Him with our prayers for stuff he knows we don't need? etc, etc.
    I'm glad you did not delete this post as it is good to know others have the same confusing thoughts .

    I just started reading your blog and I am already hooked.

    1. Margaret,

      I think I read somewhere that God likes us to ask Him for what we need even though He already knows this. Perhaps this is so we are aware of just how needy we are, how much we depend on God. We wouldn't want to get into the habit of just thinking, "Oh God will take care of all that" without stopping to thank Him and appreciate all He gives us. What do you think?

      But stuff we don't need... When it comes down to it, perhaps all we need is grace. This doesn't stop me praying for a good job for my husband, a home for my family, some sunshine on a birthday.... even though I trust God is looking after us! Perhaps He just likes to be included in all the little details of our lives. Yes, I am confused! But I am enjoying the discussion!

      Thank you so much for reading my blog and for your kind words. I hope you'll stop by again another time!

  4. I am glad you are feeling better. I am not good at prayer, and I don't know how any of that stuff works. It's sort of like a small child who sees their daddy going off to work every day. Where Daddy goes and what he does is a mystery. But I know that what he does is important and that he will always come home at the end of the day. I guess it's sort of like that. I don't know all the why's and how's. I just know HE wants us to pray, And lousy at it I am, but I still try and pray, and He has never let me down. :) Sometimes it was not "when" I wanted/needed whatever, but in His time, in His way, things have just always, one way or another, worked themselves out. God has a sense of humour about these things and about us, I believe. :) He's a good Father though. He knows whats best for us even when we don't. :) ♥

    1. Susan,

      I do like your image of the father going off to work. I like simple pictures to help me understand rather than complicated language. I am a simple soul!

      Oh yes, He wants us to pray and so we must. We often ask for the wrong things but God is so good giving us what is best for us instead. I don't suppose it matters we ask for the wrong things. It's the fact we prayed that counts.

      A sense of humour.. oh yes, I must make Him laugh all the time, because of the silly things I regularly do!

      Lovely to chat as always!

    2. Just popping in to say that I love the image of Daddy going off to work!

    3. Nancy,

      I am slow this morning. I thought you were talking about the photo at the top of this post. Then I realised you were referring to Susan's wonderful words in her comment. Silly me! Never mind. Making mistakes is good for humility. I agree with you!

  5. Someone asked recently "are prayers ever wasted?" I think of prayer and suffering as storing up treasure for heaven. Though it is so hard to undergo suffering and though we, in our weakness will wish it away, I believe that God uses it to, ummm... kick our behind's a little and take us down a notch. That is, if we let Him :)
    Glad you're feeling better, haven't seen you on my blog for a bit (am I not subtle?)

    1. Kelly,

      Storing up treasure for Heaven... I agree! And I am feeling much better thank you. I haven't been able to run all week, but I was out there running with the girls this morning. It was so good to have enough energy to exercise.

      You haven't seen me on your blog?...mmmm I'm sure I've read all your posts, but why didn't I stop by to say hello? Was I in one of my introverted moods where I creep through the blogosphere reading without letting anyone know I have visited? No, more likely I read your blog on my tablet. I hate commenting on the tablet because it's fiddly and time-consuming. Sorry Kelly! No doubt you'll see me again very soon!

      Thank you for stopping by!

  6. It's strange how a simple bug can turn our minds upside down. I have also been wondreing about prayers. Especially if God at the time of someones suffering knows that in a day - a week - years later - somebody will pray (or maybe seen the way God sees things -has already prayed) for this person and add this to the eventual outcome. This kind of thinking can make your head spin even wihtout any bugs helping along. Eternity is hard to contemplate for us timebound creatures. I think this will be one of our great aha-moments after death, understanding eternity, prayers for other, and the tied-togethernes of everything.
    Have you ever read The Screwtape Letters? This discussion of prayer and God's sense of humour made me pull it off the shelf onmce more.

    1. Uglemor,

      It doesn't take much to turn my mind upside down!

      You make a great point about the time factor. God certainly knows all about the future prayers people are saying. That's why I think it's never too late to pray for anyone... we could pray for a happy death for someone even after they have died. Mary was discussing this on her blog recently.

      Can you imagine seeing everything thing as God sees it? Wow! I think we can only grasp a little of what is actually happening in this life.

      I have The Screwtape Letters somewhere. It's been a long time since I last read it. I must hunt it out. Thank you for the reminder!

  7. How do you get in my head and think my thoughts, Sue? You have an uncanny knack for it...lol. God's ways boggle my mind at times (ahh...most of the time) and you've put many of my questions into words in your post. It's such a mystery!

    I'm glad you're feeling better!

    1. Mary,

      I am so glad I found my way into your head. That's a good place to be! If I'm thinking similar thoughts to you there's hope for me yet. I just thought I sounded rather crazy and people would say, "Sue doesn't understand anything. What stupid thoughts!" I still don't think I understand much but it's not so bad mulling over ideas in the company of friends. Thank you!

      Feeling better... I am so glad I am! I could never be one of those big saints who say, "Send me more suffering please! I'm willing to earn more grace." No. It only takes one little stomach bug to make me realise I am rather pathetic when it comes to pain.

      God bless!

    2. I never ask for suffering...lol. That stuff has a way of finding us on its own. If I have it I offer it up - not fond of stomach bugs though!

  8. Sue, enjoyed this post very much when I read it a few days ago. Will be back soon to comment. Have been too busy to do much but read. I'm dashing over here to tell you that I chose two of your blogs for awards, so put on your crown again and check at my blog. Congratulations, Queen Sue! You deserve so many awards for your amazing blogs. Love you and will e-mail soon. Life has been crazy since we got back from vacation. xoxo

    1. Patricia,

      Thank you so much! I am wearing my crown (I found a paper one Gemma-Rose made me for Epiphany) and yes, I'm feeling like the queen again. I feel very special. I am very touched you thought of me and my blogs when handing on the awards. Congratulations on getting the awards in the first place!

      I look forward to catching up with you properly very soon. With love xx

  9. I wasn't confused until I read this post. (Just Kidding!) I'm not a real curious person, I guess, because I don't spend much time pondering things that are hard to wrap my brain around. I tires me, and I'm a tired individual to begin with. I enjoyed reading your thought process about the whole prayer thing though!!

    1. Dana,

      I wouldn't be at all surprised if I confused you. The more I thought, the more confused I became! Yes, sometimes it's better just to accept something as a mystery and not wear our poor brains out thinking too much about it. I guess we'll understand everything perfectly one day!

      Thank you for reading my post!


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