A Bible Study that I participated in last year read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. The chapter on Prayer discussed (or at least led us to a discussion of) prayer images. It had never occurred to me to pray in this way before – I’m a verbal person, not a visual one. But it was a powerful idea that took root in me and that I’ve tried to practice some since.
A friend from church shared with me shortly after our diagnosis that when she prayed for us she had a prayer-image that I loved: “Imagining Robert and you encompassed in the womb of God receiving the hope, peace, and nourishment you need right now for daily life.” What a beautiful picture of who we are and what we need right now (and always for that matter!).
When I pray for Clara, I find myself repeating the same words and phrases over and over again. I hope God doesn’t tire of hearing me say, “Please heal my baby” or “Give Clara a fighting spirit” or “Let us bring her home safely and wholly.” But it’s refreshing to sometimes try to step away from words, especially when I feel at a loss for them, and instead dwell on an image that I believe can also be a powerful form of prayer.
Some of my prayer images for Clara involve all of you. We have felt so loved and surrounded by the family of Christ through this, that I truly feel that we are facing this with an army of people hoping and fighting and praying and believing. So one of my images is that Clara rests in the middle of this enormous circle of people who are all holding hands and standing around her. It’s especially powerful because there are many faces in the circle that I do not even know. There are people reading this blog and praying fervently for Clara that I have never met. It is a testament to the power and glory of God that strangers from all over the world can come together with a singular hope and prayer. I love to image you. Another image I pray that involves all of you is one where we are lifting Clara up to our Heavenly Father. We’re holding her, but each of us has just one finger on her tiny body. One of us alone would not be able to sufficiently support her, but all of us together is more than enough for her to be lifted up to the one great Healer.
I also image God directly caring for Clara. Psalm 139:13 is a verse that we have turned to and had shared with us many times in the past few months. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.” It’s a silly image, but I sometimes imagine God with giant knitting needles, working furiously on Clara’s small body. I image Him creating her in other ways too though: sometimes He is painting her or sculpting her or building her like a jigsaw puzzle. In all those images, I can nearly see the expression on His face-less face. It is one of deep concentration, attention to detail and most of all enormous compassion and love.
My mom has had a prayer-image for me and my brother for many years and it is one that I have borrowed for Clara, too. The image is of God’s hand – His giant, strong, and steady hand – gently holding my child in its palm. He’s got the whole world in His hand, right?
Sometimes my prayer images are almost just daydreams and they feel more practical than theological. I just imagine Clara here, at home, with us. I imagine her in her crib, resting peacefully. I sit in the glider of her room and imagine holding her in my arms and rocking her to sleep. I imagine giving her baths and feeding her and hearing her cry and changing her diaper and making silly faces at her and singing songs to her and reading books to her. I imagine our lives here being normal and pray that image will become a reality for us. I know that most expectant mothers probably imagine all of these same things, but for me it’s not just a meandering glimpse into the future; it’s a plea with God for it to come true. Perhaps that’s why preparing a space for her has taken on such significance for me. Her stroller arrived today and as we were playing with the levers and handles, I prayer-imaged lifting her in and out of that seat and taking her for walks outside and her little lungs filling up with fresh air and taking in the sights around her. It’s beautiful. I offer it up to our Creator with a hopeful expectation that it will be so.
So, I guess my question is this: Do you prayer-image? Like my friend, is there an image that comes to your mind specifically when you pray for Clara or for us? I’d love to hear what they are and record them and share in them with you. Maybe I’ll even image a little box filled with all these images. And give it to our God who has the power to make them tangible.