When Prayer Feels Unproductive, I Long for a Better World
Columnist Kristin Neva relates the Lord's Prayer to everyday life with ALS
Because life with ALS only gets harder as time goes by, prayer has felt increasingly unproductive for me. And after more than a decade of watching my husband, Todd, suffer from the disease, my prayers have been full of dismay.
“God, are you there? Don’t you care? Don’t you think it would be good to heal Todd? Life has been really hard for a long time. Hello?”
I wish Todd could have a more expansive life. It’s depressing to think that death will be his only escape from paralysis and his struggle to breathe.
In the last month, I’ve found solace in the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus taught his disciples. It’s a prayer I would recite as a child in church. Today, I rest in the comfort of the words familiar to me, a modified New International Version, and meditating on how they relate to life with ALS:
“Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
This world is not ideal. We desire heaven’s perfection here on earth because life is brutal. We imagine a kingdom where people living with ALS have the resources to manage the disease or, better yet, where there is a cure.
“Give us today our daily bread.”
We have many needs with ALS. Sometimes our needs are met. Sometimes they aren’t. We’re thankful when we have the basics: food, shelter, equipment, and nightly sleep.
“And forgive us our sins.”
We don’t always live up to our vows “to love and to cherish until death do us part.” It’s difficult to hold on to that ideal in the face of ongoing loss, grief, and stress, as well as through the unpleasant and mundane tasks of caregiving. We want to be empathetic and kind.
“As we forgive those who sin against us.”
Sometimes people say insensitive things or are dismissive of our pain by offering platitudes or ill-informed advice. Others who we thought would stick with us fade away when months of suffering become years. They don’t understand what we’re going through, or perhaps they’re dealing with issues that we don’t understand.
“And lead us not into temptation.”
We’re tempted to despair, give up, escape. No matter how bad things are, we can always make them worse. Every day we want to choose what is better. We can make it better than it could be when we love.
“But deliver us from evil.”
The wasting away of the bodies of those we love is an evil that’s hard to witness. Healthy bodies become weak, frail, and dependent, and for now we can’t do much to fight that evil. But we pray for a cure, or at least for a time when ALS is a treatable condition.
We find solidarity with humanity in this prayer prayed for centuries as many have longed for a better world.
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