I do not remember who taught me to pray, but I recall clearly asking God to help me bless my family and to help me stop cussing. I was eight years old, the product of alcoholic parents, one a church member with a noble heritage, (unbeknownst to me at the time). I’d heard terribly vulgar language from infancy and had adopted that habit. My spiritual teachings had come sporadically depending on where we lived, which changed frequently. I’d wandered into a Christian religious service in the small Nevada town my mother had chosen for the moment and they’d taken me into their hearts. They taught me that the language I was used to using was not acceptable to God, but the habit was very hard to break. So I turned to God in prayer. At the time, it didn’t seem like my prayers were answered as we continued to live in chaos and degradation until legal authorities stepped in to care for my siblings and me. My family, such as it was, was torn apart. And well, you know how the cussing project is going. (Although, to tell the truth, I don’t cuss near as much or as badly as I did when I was eight years old.)
That early disappointment has been replaced with faith as I’ve grown and become an active member of our church. I’ve seen solid, tangible answers to my prayers again and again. Sometimes in the form of lost items as I’ve prayed “sparrow prayers” as Cheiko Okazaki calls them. Other times, answers have come in starkly miraculous ways and I’ve then knelt in prayers of gratitude.
However, there have been many seemingly unanswered prayers as I’ve pleaded with the Lord over my wayward children, begging Him to send caring people into their lives when I have had little influence on their decisions. As I’ve struggled through life, prayers for health, or wisdom, or changed attitudes in the experiences of family members—including my children and myself!—often seem to be answered with a “no” or worse, an ominous silence that I’ve mistaken for a lack of concern on God’s part. I have voiced my frustration to Heavenly Father and asked over and over “why?” I’ve struggled to surrender and like the Savior, say “thy will be done.”
Several months ago, my belief that God was not as mindful of me and mine as I would prefer was shattered. A loved one related to me in confidence a choice another had made in direct contradiction to God’s laws and that person’s own conscience. I was stunned to learn that a particular blessing I’d been begging God for had been conferred upon this precious individual. And that the individual had rejected the blessing, deciding they didn’t want to deal with it at that time. Secretly and alone, they’d declined what was divinely offered.
“God answered my prayer and I didn’t know it!” was my shocked response. All those hours on my knees, wondering why and kvetching, accusing Heavenly Father of favoritism, and He’d given me a “yes” only to be told “no, thank you.”
Now I’m going over every other request I’ve made, wondering if I either didn’t know about the “yes” answer or misread the events. It’s so easy not to see the blessing or opportunity for growth in life’s ups and downs. I think of that frequently forwarded (I don’t know, I get it regularly) email story about the guy who experiences losses and seeming disasters only to wake up the next day and see a blessing come from it. He’s blasé when others lament his bad luck or rejoice his good fortune saying “time will tell.” I consider my own blindness and lack of appreciation.
As always, my relationship with deity is a mixed bag due to my iconoclasm, my inferiority complex, the anger I feel toward my own parents and others who raised me for their failure to love me as I’d thought I should be loved. I expect I try the Lord’s patience rather often. On the other hand, God and I have had some talks about this recent occurrence. How strange it is that He knew He’d said yes while I was still begging.