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Chicken Soup for the Spirit

By J.

Photo by Natural Chef Carolyn Nicholas on Unsplash

The autumn sun was only weak, but I decided the light from the north-facing window of the bedroom allowed me to be warmer than any other part of the house. Standing before the window and sipping at a cup of hot chicken soup, I wrestled with a matter of indecision in my mind.

Is it easier to take the passive option or the active option? The active one seemed more challenging, is that because it's the difficult right thing to do? I had thought so when I first woke up in the morning. I had hoped that the issue would clear up as the day wore on, but now I was less sure than before.

The taste of chicken soup lingered in my mouth as I put the empty cup down. Perhaps it was just an excuse to stay in that vaguely warm spot in front of the window I placed a chair in the weak sunlight, took up a notebook and wrote: "Father, I pray for...".

I spoke to God about my indecision. I shared about my hesitations and murky motivations. I told God that only he was wise in this situation (but really I was saying this for my own benefit.) I told God of my inadequacies and acknowledged his power (also for my benefit). I realised and confessed a mistake I made the day before.

Everything that was on my mind came out through my pen. I swung between praise and petition from one sentence to the next. Suddenly I found myself writing, "Lord, I start to wonder, do my prayers count?" I wonder about this question in my prayer. I didn't quite figure out a watertight answer, but I did write in the end, "if I don't pray, I don't get swept up in your purposes." Then I was back to petition and praise, petition and praise.

My anguish stirred me to petition. Then immediately, old memories of God's grace stirred me to praise. Unexpectedly a different burden for a different matter reared its head.

And it's when I was praying over this extraneous matter that it occurred to me: "Are you asking me, 'do you believe that prayer is enough?' Oh Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief!" I petitioned God to strengthen my faith, and I praised God that I could pray to him without fearing that I would pray wrong.

That was how the matter of indecision was put to rest. As I prayed, it became clear that the passive option was the more challenging one after all. I had to trust in God to do what my actions could never achieve. I had to believe that prayer was enough, against my instinct to jump in and take care of the situation by my illusion of influence.

The dappled light was shifting from the window, and I was starting to get cold. I got up for another cup of hot chicken soup, but my spirit was already fed.

Postscript: the challenge of writing about actual prayer is the mess of emotion and thought that prayer involves! Some things I share with God I would never share with anyone else, but I hope that my attempt to capture this experience of "sipping on a cup of prayer" with God will free you up to pray anguished messy, delightful wondering prayers too.


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