My evening prayers were distinctly different from my morning prayers.
I had awakened to another beautiful summer day, to the voices of visiting grandchildren. The day would include swimming, playing, treasuring time with my daughter. By mid-morning, we'd received a phone call with bad news. It changed the day.
Later that night, when it was time to kneel for prayer, the prayers started with Please bless...and because of the ramifications of sorrow, the please list kept getting bigger...Please protect, please strengthen, please help. I only had needs. Or my focus was only on the needs of others.
Usually, because I have been taught and have learned for myself that an important aspect of prayer is gratitude, my prayer begins with reiterations of the blessings and my sincere gratitude for these blessings. It's certainly the most fertile ground to plant one's needs and requests. It causes the petitioner to recognize first how blessed she may already be. When I remembered I had dove in without first dipping my toes in gratitude, I slowed down and apologized for so many requests without first expressing love and gratitude; but believing that God is aware of me and the people I love, it felt okay. Sometimes there's just got to be more pleases than thanks. When we're hanging off a cliff, a help! before gratitude would be well received.
The past few days I've been swimming with little creatures who are just finding their comfort in the water. Moments when they lose footing or forget they can float, there is a panic in their eyes that's immediately soothed with a simple stretch of my arm to grasp or push them to the step for safety.
I'm here, and I would never let you sink.
Never would I hold back if they didn't say first, Thanks for being here for me and by the way, could you reach out and keep me from drowning?
So tomorrow, when I once again step into the pool, or kneel to say prayer, the sorrow will be first on my mind, but I won't be in a panic. I will begin my prayer with Thank you...and thanks for my health, and my family, and for the love I feel. And I'll remember the words of Dr. Helen Easterling Williams who in between her singing of an old Negro spiritual, in between her expression, "I'm God's baby girl," also shared her mother's wisdom, "When you say thanks, you can ask for more."