Does Prayer Work?

But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. Luke 22:32

I happened to type “Prayer” into my Pinterest search bar this morning and boy did I get a spiritual eyeful. I’ll give you the link at the end of this post but suffice to say there was a whole wide range of pins on the subject.

Evangelist Luke writing, Byzantine illuminatio...
Evangelist Luke writing, Byzantine illumination, 10th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This got me thinking about prayer. How do you pray? Or do you even pray? My prayers have changed over the years. When I was young they were the prayers of church, whispered along with the priest’s words or out loud during the liturgy. During the kneeling down part of the service, I was either paying attention or not, fidgeting or wondering what I was going to do later that day, like riding my Schwinn bicycle around the neighborhood with my girlfriends.

One time as a young child, we missed church because it had snowed heavily. I remember being worried about the consequences and what God would think if I wasn’t there. So I took a cross I had in my room and prayed, maybe on my knees. I don’t remember what I prayed about but I remember I had a really good week, getting an “A” on a test and other assorted awesome stuff. That’s when I knew God had some serious pull.

Jim, my SO, doesn’t believe in praying for specific things. He thinks I do but honestly, my prayers are of the general variety. Does prayer work? I used to think it was silly stuff but the older I get the more I believe yes, prayer definitely has its potential.

It is amazing sometimes that I will pray for assistance for someone or some issue, again the prayers not being specific, and help will arrive in some shape or form. Honestly, if I leave well enough alone and not give God directions on how I want it done, s(he) will do a fabulous job. After all, it’s God we are talking here.

What doesn’t work is praying and then using my own control devices. Or praying and expecting immediate results. Prayer works fast sometimes and other times it does not. Maybe God wants us to practice a bit of patience.

Letting go of results is probably the hardest part of prayer for me. Maybe this surprises you- is there really a letting go part? Yes, I think this is the most powerful part of prayer- surrender. There in lies the freedom, the relief I have been seeking. That moment when I can lay my head down and feel a peace come over me that just wasn’t there before.

The results of prayer are often solutions I hadn’t thought of. Imagine that. That is when I know God is really good.

Click HERE for the Pinterest prayer board link.

Do you believe in prayer? What’s your favorite prayer or tell us how prayer has worked or not worked for you….

Join me on my graceful journey.

Sober Mercies

“Once upon a time, I assumed my Christian faith would make me immune to the kind of gross moral lapse I considered alcoholism to be. The way I saw it, if you were a sincere believer, you would rarely, if ever, drink. And if you did drink, you would be careful not to drink too much. And if you never drank too much, you couldn’t become an alcoholic”. Heather Kopp

Sober-Mercies-198x300So begins Chapter Two of Heather’s book “Sober Mercies”, a book I couldn’t put down and read in a little over a weekend.

I was fascinated by Heather’s story mainly because I personally have the privilege of knowing many members of my local recovery community. I admire those individuals who recognize their drinking has gone awry and make the choice to live sober. Matter of fact, my recovery friends have taught me a great deal about spirituality, faith and living life one day at a time.

But a Christian drunk exposing all of her deepest fears, shortcomings and basically, dirty laundry? Yes. Heather gets right to the point and shares the secret life she led- hiding bottles, discarding used bottles and the constant maintenance of a consistent level of alcohol in her system. And the insanity that brought her to bended knees, finally causing her to admit she had no control over her insatiable desire for alcohol.  And finding out alcoholism is a disease, not a question of self will.

Because, as Heather explains, it is a disease. She hears this in treatment, thinks it’s an excuse, and the counselor blows her out of the water by explaining that “no one would propose lung cancer, directly caused by cigarettes, or diabetes brought on by obesity, are not legitimate disease, even when they arise from or are triggered by an avoidable indulgence.”

Heather analyzes her own Christian faith, realizing that she brought “a finely tuned and biblically supported belief system about God” to recovery. But then she realizes just how much her recovery meetings begin to feel like a close encounter with grace.

The difference? The people in the meetings come in desperation, asking God for help. And they are saved by their surrender and willingness to turn complete control over to the God of their understanding.

Why read this book? Maybe you are a member of a recovery community yourself, or maybe you know someone who drinks a little too much. Regardless, you will find an education within the pages of  “Sober Mercies.” An education not only on alcoholism, the twelve steps, faith and God, but also the enlightenment that comes with going deeper. Heather inspires us not to settle for the comfortable (or uncomfortable) spot in life, but to look beyond and inside ourselves for answers and the real meaning of why we do the things we do.

I hope you will take the time to read this beautiful book.

And, of course, here is my disclosure. The book was given to me free of charge and I am not compensated for my review. This is my own opinion of “Sober Mercies” by Heather Kopp.

Join me on my graceful journey.

Kisses for God

Candles 2

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Phillippians 8-9

Being a Greek Orthodox Christian, this is my Holy Week and this past Sunday was Palm Sunday. It felt wonderful to be in church early to read the epistle (the above passage). My sister Mary has thankfully come to stay with Mom a whole week leading up to Greek Easter. Though I have loved spending time with my mother, I am loving the nice bit of freedom I will have this week. (Thank you Mary!)

Church filled up fast on Sunday. Many people came; lots of beautiful children and babies (which I just love). Father E. read the gospel about the last days of Jesus and the oil that smelled so good. Palms were handed out at the end of the service, molded into the shape of a cross. There was a fish dinner afterwards and Mom was able to see many of her friends that she has missed for months. It was a good day.

One of the most touching sights in church was the candles, lit by practically everyone who entered. It was amazing to see them ablaze, lighting the back wall of Narthex. Even one of my fellow council friends remarked on the specialness of them. I thought of them as kisses for God, as if every one of us was sending kisses to heaven and perhaps to loved ones who have passed on.

I have to tell you about the feeling I had being back in church. After many months of devotion to mom, I felt a peace, a gratitude to God for all the blessings in my life. My mom is recovering, I have a new life (minus my job!). Some things are different, some things are the same. Some things feel really good and my relationship to God feels another level deeper.

Maybe you have a special form of prayer or something you do which gives you this same feeling? Maybe it’s your church or a walk in the woods that does it for you. Maybe you feel that feeling of connection when you ride a gentle horse, run or walk on the beach. Perhaps you feel it when you kiss your baby or do the poses of yoga. You name it; maybe this provides the same feeling for you as my church does for me. What would you do without it? Would things feel the same?

I am grateful I have my church to go to. It is there I can connect and feel even closer to God.

What is your favorite form of spiritual connection? What moves you deep inside?

Join me on my graceful journey.

Baklava Meets Bagels

English: Six Braided Jewish Challah with sesame.
Delicious Challah Bread (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been blessed by some truly unique experiences in my 55 years of life. One of the most grace full experiences I have had is the privilege, as a Greek Orthodox Christian, to work inside of a Jewish synagogue.

For five years I was the events coordinator of a very beautiful, large synagogue in the heart of my hometown city. It was and still is a place of amazing beauty and the object of much love from its congregation.

When my friend and future boss interviewed me seven years ago, he said “You are perfect for this job”. I said “What IS the job?”. He said, “Events Coordinator”. When he showed me the schedule I almost fainted.

The schedule was filled with meetings, services, Bar Mitzvahs and Kiddushes. I thought “What the heck?”  I told my boss I knew nothing about Judaism and he said “Everyone will be very patient with you while you learn”.

And learn I did. I learned about celebrating Shabbat, Chanukah, Passover, and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. I learned all the components of a Jewish wedding including a beautiful chuppah. I worked with a great team of people, including the rabbis, who bent over backwards to plan perfect events for their attendees. They taught me many things about the traditions and meanings of the holidays. They opened my eyes to many spiritual things.

I grew a great respect for the Jewish culture and the race as a whole. Jews are very hard workers, dedicated and loyal to their faith. The congregation did great acts of philanthropy- donating food, stepping up for causes I had never even heard of. It was an amazing experience for me to see such expressions of unselfishness and love.

On a softer note, I came to also love the food of “Temple”. Because there was a large gathering hall and many food events, there were always great leftovers. I grew to love brisket and potato latkes (with a dab of sour cream or applesauce!). Bagels with a smear of cream cheese, a sprinkle of capers, a slice of onion and a filet of smoked salmon are awesome! I became a huge fan of hamenstashen (a cookie filled with fruit) and rugelach.  I can still get excited over a good loaf of challah bread! In turn, I brought in homemade Greek baklava at Christmas to share with the staff and congregants. They loved it and told me so.

Once, I met with a mom who was planning her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah luncheon. We went over many things and she was very organized. I only helped her to bring it all together and plan the final execution. When we were done talking she said, “You must have a Jew in your tree.” I laughed and said “Well, I’m Greek Orthodox so I don’t think so….!” She said “Well, you know what they say, “If you shake the tree hard enough, one will fall out!” I took this as a great compliment.

I did come to understand and respect the customs and way things were done. And in many cases, certain congregants became like family to me. When I first arrived at my job, several of them stopped by my office to welcome me (and to check me out!). When I won them over, they brought me gifts at various times of the year, fussed over meeting my husband or other family members, and filled me in when I didn’t understand something. I felt loved and accepted there no matter what.

I hope other religious institutions would be so accepting towards one not of their faith, working within their organization in such a deep and personal way. In my willingness to explore a different perspective other than my own, I gained a huge new understanding of God, love and faith.

May you have the opportunity and the willingness to do something that truly opens your spiritual eyes. And may you grow from it!

Have you ever had a unique experience outside of your own faith? What was it like?

Join me on my graceful journey.

Someone’s Watching Over Me

Sunrise 2

“I was not sure where I was going, and I could not see what I would do when I got [there]. But you saw further and clearer than I, and you opened the seas before my ship, whose track led me across the waters to a place I had never dreamed of, and which you were even then preparing to be my rescue and my shelter and my home.”
― Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

This quote speaks volumes about the last month or so of my life.

My mom was ill almost all of February and now as she progresses in her recovery, I have a chance to look back and reflect on what really happened.

It is clear that I’ve been watched over. And a path was cleared along the way for me.

Twice last month I narrowly missed being involved in a car accident. If I’d have been seconds later or earlier I would have been hit. I was not.

One morning I was scared and worried about my mom. It was at the beginning of her illness and she was very sick. I happened to be standing at my kitchen sink, looking out the window into my side yard. A singular, enormous doe came out from behind the pine trees and began walking towards my house. She stopped right outside the window, just feet away. I froze as I met her gaze and it was as if she looked right through me. I knew at that moment that my mom was going to be ok. To me, that was a sign of Grace.

The truth is, I have had signs all along the way. People have shown up for me, my mom and my sisters. I finally began to tone down my worry when I realized all I had to do was believe. It was really that simple.

I swear God sees things coming. He sends in reinforcements, interceptions and angels. When I remember to truly Let Go, I just stand back and watch the magic unfold.

A few days after my mom was on a new floor, a rehab floor, I walked into her room and there was a sweet dear friend of mine assigned to my mom as her nurse’s aide for the day. Imagine! In a whole hospital full of people, my friend was assigned to my mother. Was this a coincidence? I think not.

When we believe and have faith, our life can be full and rich and bursting at the seams. No one said it was going to be easy. But someone’s watching over me (and you!) and all we have to do is trust.

Do you ever feel like someone is watching over you? Protecting you? Tell me about it!

Join me on my graceful journey.