“Please God, grant me strength.”
I have said those words many times. Like most people I have experienced love and loss, joy and pain, happiness and grief. During the good times I pray to say thank you for my blessings and to ask God’s protection for my loved ones. I pray for peace. Quite often I pray for things I want. (I’m no saint, after all.)
During the hard times I used to pray for the strength to see me through. I knew no matter how hard things became there would be an end to my suffering. I just needed to be strong enough to see it through. When I lost a baby via miscarriage I paced and prayed well into the night until exhaustion finally overtook me. I prayed so long so hard when my sister died I barely slept for weeks. As a single mother of four I dealt with the many challenges with hope and prayer every day.
Despite my almost constant request for strength my prayers never seemed to be answered. Instead of giving up I prayed more and I prayed harder. After all, God is busy and it often takes time for our prayers to be answered. I dug in and did my best to get through each crisis and when it was over I’d pray for the strength to get through the next one. I always knew more trouble would follow.
Then one day, as I was sharing my woes with a friend, I ended my tale with the same words I so often repeated. “God, grant me strength.”
“Oh Bobbi, don’t say that,” she said. “Look what you’ve been through. What you’ve survived. You’re strong enough already, don’t you think?”
“I know I’m strong but I never know what I’ll have to deal with next. I have to make sure I’m ready for whatever comes my way.”
“That may be true but the last thing you need is to become stronger. Think about what you have to do to get strong. If you want to build muscle you lift heavy weights. The stronger you want to become the heavier the weight you have to lift and the more often you have to heft it. Is that what you want?”
“No. I want the burden to be lifted. I want help. I want to know how to solve the problem before it becomes too much for me.”
“Then that’s what you should ask for. Don’t forget that God endowed us with an intellect and free will. We are in charge of our lives. He assists us when asked but he doesn’t take over and fix our problems. He provides us with opportunities to work them out in our own way. When you ask for strength He provides you with opportunities to become strong. If you ask for patience you will be given opportunities to learn how to wait. Be careful what you pray for. Consider what you really need and ask for that.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you need help, ask for help. If you are lost, ask Him to show you the way. Whatever you do stop asking for strength.”
I thought about her advice for a long time. It made sense and it wouldn’t hurt to change the words to my nightly prayers. I stopped asking for strength.
Years later, after I had been a caregiver for a long time and things were especially hard, I prayed almost constantly for weeks.
“Please send help. Dear God, I need help. Please send help any way you see fit.” Despite my prayers Rodger ended up in the hospital again. Still I prayed. Even on the way to sit at his bedside and feed him I prayed. “I need help. Show me the path you want me to take.”
When I arrived at his room a man was standing at the door waiting for me. He was a hospital social worker. “Mrs. Carducci, do you need help?”
Not sure I’d heard him right, I asked him to repeat what he’d said.
“I see in Rodger’s files that you’ve been caring for him for a long time and his needs are extensive. Do you need help?”
After taking the time to say a silent prayer of thanks in recognition to God for answering my prayers, I assured the man I did, indeed, need help. Before I left the hospital that day we were enrolled in a respite program that would mean I would have in-home help eight hours a week. I could finally get some rest. I could go to the grocery store. I could go to church and say a proper thank you.
Each night when I say my prayers I ask God to hold me in His love and light and show me the path He wants me to take. The road is often long and bumpy but I always end up where I need to be and I am grateful, and I am strong enough.
- What Prayer Changes (joshuareich.org)