Friday, August 24, 2012

Dear God, will you please...

My aunt had a prayer box. She said if I wrote down my problems and stuck them into the box, I wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore. God would solve them.

My little cousin told my aunt he didn’t think God answered prayers. “I had a headache once and prayed to God to make it go away, and it didn’t.”

“Do you still have that headache?” My aunt asked.

I shared my cousin’s skepticism. However, Auntie Joy had been right about pretty well everything else she’d taught me, so I figured I’d make myself a prayer box…just as an experiment.

I was about 9-years old, exactly the right age to enjoy cutting out poems and pictures and words of wisdom to decorate that old shoe box. And just the right age to write down lots and lots of stuff and slip those papers into that box. I didn’t just write down problems, I also asked for things. I figured if God was going to answer prayers, I might as well take full advantage of that.  I kept adding little notes over the next few months until some other childhood flight of fancy caught my attention. The prayer box languished under the trappings of a busy youngster.

The point of the prayer box was that you were to forget about the things you’d written, because, after all, God had it all under control. You weren’t supposed to be opening it and snooping at your prayers—once they were in that box, they were God’s problems, not yours. 

Of course that wasn’t going to happen. When I found that box a year later, you can be pretty sure I was going to check out the success rate of my prayers. Since I hadn’t noticed any miracles in my life, I wasn’t expecting much. 


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Decades later, when my children were around 9-years old, I got them to help me build a new prayer box. We all put our little notes in there and carried on. As had happened to me years ago, the novelty wore off in a few months and the prayer box disappeared from the kitchen counter. A year later, I pulled it out of my closet, gathered the children, and opened that box. 

Some of our prayers had been answered so naturally, no one had even noticed. The kids’ immune systems had kicked in and their colds had gone away, antibiotics had cured my bladder infection, the terrible event I’d worried about, simply hadn’t happened.

Some requests were answered in strange ways. The hail storm hadn’t avoided us, but because of the damage it caused, the insurance company paid for the new vehicle paint job I’d wanted.  The lost dog had not returned but his absence had left room in our home and hearts for a new puppy in desperate need of a good home—a puppy that ended up being much better with the kids. I’d given my daughter my old camera when I got a new one, not knowing she’d popped a request for a camera into the prayer box.

Some requests had been answered by hard work on our part. The massive garage sale I’d organized provided the cash needed to pay off those worrisome bills. My daughter passed that exam she’d been worried about—thanks to hours and hours of homework and studying 

Many, many of the problems we’d written down, we simply couldn’t remember having. We decided those prayers must have been answered since the problems were obviously no longer worrying anyone. “Do you know why I was worried about your left leg, Tracy?” “No.”

And, oh yes, every one of our headaches had gone away.

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Eileen Schuh, Canadian writer

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