In Defense of Prayer: WNIJ Perspective and Midweek Interview

By October 17, 2019 Spirituality, WNIJ

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Lately, I’ve heard people mock the idea of thoughts and prayers in the wake of a tragedy, but I have seen the power of these prayers. Jesus says we’re supposed to bug God with our requests, and that we can ask him for anything. I have prayed for friends and seen their marriages healed. I have seen daughters take an interest in faith. I have found joy again.

I prayed that God bless a woman I hated because every time my thoughts turned towards her, I sputtered about what I’d say to her face if I had a chance. It was ugly imagination. The only way out was to turn those “I wish I’d said” imaginations into blessing. Jesus said to bless our enemies. The Buddhists say to wish others well, including ourselves. (I’ve noticed that my hatred towards her was hatred towards parts of myself I couldn’t stand.) It took twenty years, of turning thoughts as hard as stacking hay in a barn, but that enmity healed and became trust.

Sometimes I wonder whether my prayers do any good. I have seen suffering ratchet up instead of easing. But my friend still asks for prayers. It is hard work, this praying, because your thoughts turn toward someone else, when they could be yours. You release hopes for blessing like flapping doves. The Psalmist says God collects tears in a bottle. I believe he does.

I’m Katie Andraski and that’s my perspective.

If you’d like to hear me read this aloud, click here.

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Here’s what a wrote on a similar theme years ago. This blessing my enemy has been a practice that saved my sanity.

God bless my enemy. Bless her. God.

For whatever reason she is someone I can’t confront. I can’t talk to her about what’s troubling us. Often she’s nothing more than a wet hen pecking at me incessantly—you aren’t worthy, you don’t belong here, you’re not good enough. The wounds are subtle, but I bleed.

I know my enemy because she sits like a cockleburr on my soul, the prickers so sharp it does no good to talk it out, the pain only nestles, making itself comfortable and me obsessing: I could have said…I should have replied… But anything I might say to defend myself would be met by an accusation I cannot answer.  My brain rides a spin that skips, the music played over and over.  I bore my friends. They withdraw.

I do not want to be married to my enemy because of the hate, but I am harnessed to her as surely as two Clydesdales are bound by heavy leather straps, tugs, and the load they are pulling. Besides, just because she hates me, and sometimes it’s just that, her hatred, it doesn’t mean I have to hate him back.

There is wisdom behind Jesus’ commands to love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you. It’s a wisdom that reflects the saying that when we hate others it’s because we are uneasy with ourselves. But sometimes it’s easier to hate someone out there, who has done us wrong, than our own souls, who did someone else wrong. How can I pray such a thing when I hate her? I hate the woman. There I said it.

God bless her.

I hate her.

God bless her.

I swear it’s like shoving my shoulder against a Clydesdale that will not move, her quarter ton hoof resting on my foot. Bless. Her. My enemy. I lean into the horse. Punch her flank. The mare turns her head, looks at me with kinder eyes than her hoof, leans into me. Bless the nag. God. Get her off my foot.

God what am I saying? I can’t tell you what to do. I can only trust your Spirit’s stepping between us, with a language more like groans and I think about my dog as he stretches out of sleep to waking, with low throated greetings like nickers from a horse.

God does something, or the prayer’s own power, or the goodness being traded for evil, but some magic of goodness happens. He feeds her, my enemy, pouring oats into her manger.  She steps forward. I pant as the blood shoots into my foot. The pain eases.

I have seen this blessing work a slow miracle in the most intractable of relationships, where I had no hope we’d ever speak again, but there we were, talking and listening with compassion. So this is one thing I believe and practice. I bless her, my enemy. And in blessing her I bless myself.

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Now to switch subjects. (This should have gone out last week, but I’m slow.)

I was compulsively checking my Gmail account when I saw that Google Alerts had my name posted. Usually they do this for WNIJ posts but this time the headline was: Schaumberg Resident Named Semi Finalist in Statewide Publishing Competition. Huh. Why is my name there? I read through and saw my name was listed first in the list of fifteen semifinalists for the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project. Last spring I entered the competition, thinking why not? Then I forgot about it because I don’t tend to win.

If a person sends out their work, they’re in for lots of rejections. Plowing through those increases the chance for acceptances. (I’ve never been good at plowing through the rejections. Ever. They seemed like a verdict on my worth as a writer. Though when I did get personal rejections from people like Michael Curtis at The Atlantic, I never pushed through, I never bugged him with story after story. I chalk this up to my fear of audience. I was terrified of my audience. Terrified I’d be sued. Terrified of what my relatives would say. And creative writing workshops both in grad school and after, increased my fear of audience because they were so brutal. I think the reasoning in my workshops was to toughen us up but it had the reverse effect on me.

lightcatcher press logo seravek outlines

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I used to drive to Highland Park for a writer’s group, every week, a drive that was over an hour both ways. I’d return around midnight. The “First Draft Group” was kind but I found that instead of writing my draft from beginning to end, I was stuck on the first fifty pages. I decided to leave even  though the group had become a support group and my identity was wrapped up in being a member of this high powered group.

My writing took off and I imagined the draft end to end. I listened to the quiet voices of my characters. Eventually I hired Helga Schier, a professional editor, who undid the damage those workshops did. (I believe I blew my opportunity to be published traditionally because of it because four top New York editors and eight top agents were interested in it, but I’d not drawn my characters clearly, but it took so long to revise the book, that the whole industry had shifted.)

I published The River Caught Sunlight partly to learn how to have an audience. I wouldn’t have  started this blog otherwise. What a gift you all have been to me. I am grateful to you for reading this blog, for your kindness and thoughtful responses. You’ve gently said, keep writing, your work means something to us.

Facebook too helped me learn to have an audience because I used to post little descriptions of my days and people received those prose poems. (I have a draft of one particularly hard year, that one day, I may publish.)

I’ve moved to posting pictures because sometimes I’m wordless, or thinking way too much about politics and don’t want to go there because the conversations are long and exhausting and can run to disrespectful. Even here I feel I am moving from being rich with words, to being poor with them, but  with images, I can show you what I’ve seen in a week. While I want to stay in touch, I need to spend the time I spend here working on getting some poetry, some essays and even the sequel(s) to this published. So my blogs may be shorter, more pictoral, less polished.

At any rate after being named semi finalist for the Soon to Be Published Author Contest, I was contacted because the Midweek wanted to interview me. I called Katrina right away and she agreed to interview me that afternoon. (I’ve gotten so good with procrastination that if I don’t get on things right away, weeks go by.) Here is her well written article that captures my voice down to how I use sentences: Catching Sunlight On the Record with Katie Andraski

Notice of the essay even made front page!

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I did not move on to the finalist round. Here is the information on who won. These books all look like great reads. 2019 Finalists Announced

This has  motivated me to finish the process I started two years ago with buying the rights back to my book. My friend Roberta Lawrence designed the logo. I sent it along to my former publisher but never followed up. Overwhelm, a feeling like a migraine without the headache, like walking through water took over. Click on the link below to see my logo.

lightcatcher press logo seravek outlines

Roberta and I figured that light catcher would be a good name for my press because I’m always looking for light. What better light catcher than a tree? I’m pleased with what she came up with.

So all this worked to finish the process I started with buying the rights back. John Koehler kindly shepherded me and the book over to Light Catcher Press. I’m hoping to release some poetry in the next year and get back to work on the River Caught Sunlight series.

At any rate thank you for your support. For reading these posts.

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6 Comments

  • Sue Whatley says:

    I agree whole-heartedly, Katie. I have seen prayer take people from hopeless to hopeful to miraculous—even when those changes are not capable of acknowledging that intervention. At the same time, I understand so many people’s frustration when the phrase is a brush-off or a cop-out. My reaction has been to dig in and make sure that when I say it to someone, I absolutely commit to giving up time and my own self-indulgences to really do this praying. Thank you for speaking what many of us are thinking.

    • I so agree with you that if we say we’ll pray for someone, we should pray for them. Sometimes it’s hard on Facebook when people ask for prayer and I don’t have the relationship or bandwidth to pray regularly for them. I do sometimes say a prayer right then and let it go. I agree about letting go of our self indulgences to pray for others…Thank you so much for stopping by.

  • Lynn D. Morrissey says:

    God tells us to ask, seek, and knock. Those verbs in the original are asking, seeking, knocking . . . continuous communication with God. We pray because He commands it, and yet it is amazing that He graciously welcomes it. We pray because we need Him at every turn. And because we know He answers. I’ve seen remarkable answers to prayer in my life and the lives of those I love, miraculous answers. (Even noes are sometimes a wonderful answer when, in retrospect, I realize a yes would have been harmful to me in the long run. God takes the long perspective. Thank you, Katie, also for this timely reminder to pray for our enemies. God commands that, too, but I tend to ignore this, not just to the detriment of my enemy, but to me. You truly do have no idea how timely this reminder is to me. Thank you!
    Fondly
    Lynn

    • Thank you for stopping by and for the insight that we are in continuous communication with God. Can you share a ny of those remarkable answers to prayer? I hear you on noes being wonderful answers. I am so grateful God told me no to some of the men I encountered as a young woman. It’s so wonderful we can pray feeble prayers and trust God will sort them out. I’m so glad this reminder was helpful to you.

  • Mark says:

    Katie, I’ve always loved the scene from the movie “Shadowlands“ about C.S. Lewis and his wife, Joy. First, isn’t it too much for mere coincidence that Providence brought a beautifully broken bride named “Joy” to Lewis, the confirmed bachelor and one-time atheist who had once described his conversion to faith in Christ Jesus as “Surprised By Joy!” And later when Joy is dying from a very painful cancer, what another true life metaphor that is too, huh?

    The movie portrays Lewis as telling a friend who had assured the desperate husband after Joy’s cancer had entered some remission “God is now answering your prayers,” that THAT’s not why he prays. Lewis responds, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping.” As the not really interested friend walks off, Lewis is left reflecting by himself, “It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”

    I stumbled over that scene when I first watched it decades ago. I had expected Lewis to say something lofty about God answering our prayers, but the line fell flat on my ears, sounding almost atheistic. Not until I had gone on to live that scene myself over and over again did I come to realize how lofty a truth it actually was. I’ve come to realize that even my sometimes prayers of “Damn YOU, God!” please Our Father who would rather His children desperately wrestle with Him than die all alone without Him.

    https://youtu.be/7QdnzM04i_0

    • Thank you for sharing this. I just posted the clip on FB as I have been thinking of this ever since you mentioned it. It is amazing that God sent Joy to Lewis. This helps me on those hard days when prayer seems futile. I do a lot of intercessory prayer. I don’t know if I”m praying for the right thing for someone, but I do know that God sifts through those prayers and works for good in their life as well as my own. I so agree that God wants us to speak out our pain, even to say Damn you God because then we are in relationship with him. Sometimes those complaints are the word dug out of us, until we have faces…I hope to be writing about this soon. One of my favorite passages comes out of Ps 55 and reads somewhat like this: “In the evening, in the morning and at noonday I will complain and lament and the Lord will hear me. He who is enthroned of old will deliver me.” As always, thank you for stopping by and offering your wisdom.

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