Since becoming a mother, I noticed that the amount of little prayers that I say throughout any given day have increased at least tenfold.
I remember when Peter was just an infant. He cried constantly, and wanted to nurse constantly when the pain of nursing was excruciating for me, and didn’t sleep well, and I was constantly exhausted and overwhelmed. It was so difficult.
I said prayers constantly. “Heavenly Father, please let him go to sleep. Please let this stop hurting so much. Please help him stop crying.”
I made the comment to my dad when he and my mom came to visit when Peter was three weeks old that I have never felt so equally supported and abandoned by God. That feeling has returned many times in my short two years of motherhood.
I remember when Peter was about a year old, and had been sleeping through the night for several months. Something happened (we later realized that his molars were coming in), and he started waking up several times a night. Waking up several times a night is hard enough, but when you have gotten back in the habit of sleeping for an eight hour stretch and it gets snatched away from you again… the misery is real. Every time Peter would wake up, I would find myself uttering a little prayer that he would go back to sleep on his own. And every time, he didn’t. After a week or so, I was bitter. I just wanted to stop having faith that God was going to fix anything for me, because that was making me feel betrayed by Him. I kept remembering a line from a talk Elder Bednar gave once, where he recounts asking someone if they had “the faith not to be healed”. I started to believe that I just needed to get over thinking that a prayer would ever lift my burdens.
Finally one night Peter had woken up completely beside himself crying, and we couldn’t do anything to get him to calm down. Marty asked if I wanted him to give Peter a blessing. I said yes, but while Marty was getting ready, I sat there holding my crying child and wondering how I could find the faith for this blessing to work. How could I believe that it would help anything when every single night I had been saying prayers that weren’t getting answered? How could I simultaneously have the faith that Peter would be calmed, while also believing that maybe it wasn’t God’s will to fix this? I felt like the blessing would be a waste because at that moment, my heart had no idea what faith looked like.
Then Marty put his hands on Peter’s head to begin the blessing and immediately, that instant, Peter stopped crying. He was silent and still for the entire blessing, and fell asleep on me within minutes of the blessing completing. That experience was so humbling to me, and I walked away from it ashamed at my own lack of faith.
I still struggle with this dichotomy today. I came to the realization a few months ago that the majority of my little prayers were requests to simply have my trials removed. After that realization I started adjusting my prayers to ask for help and support in my trials, rather than for the removal of them.
This felt like an improvement, but I also knew that the saying of prayers to ask for trials or pain or sickness to be taken away was not a bad thing. We hear story after story about people praying to be healed and having their prayers miraculously answered. Christ himself prayed and asked to “let this cup pass from me“. So I have been trying to figure out how to reconcile both the faith to be healed, with the simultaneous faith not to be healed.
Today I went back to that talk of Elder Bednar’s. I hadn’t remembered anything about it except for the one line, and figured that it would be a good place to start trying to answer my questions.
Within the talk, the man whom Elder Bednar had asked if he had the faith not to be healed expressed that he had felt similarly to the way I have. “Why should I have faith if His will ultimately is what will prevail…?” he asked. He goes on to realize that “…having faith—at least in [this] circumstance—was not necessarily knowing that He would heal me, but that He could heal me. I had to believe that He could, and then whether it happened was up to Him.”
I had erred in putting my faith in the belief that He would “heal” me, rather than that He could. And if I know that He can, and he doesn’t- as long as I have prayed in faith, and done all I can to act in faith, then I can instead find peace and comfort in knowing that whatever is happening is the Lord’s will.
Tonight as I was trying to get Carolyn to go to bed, yet again, I found myself wanting to pray for help. I decided to try and consciously adjust my prayer to be in accordance with the things I had read today.
This was the string of thoughts that was my prayer:
I know that you are able to help Carolyn to fall asleep.
And I know that you know that this is hard for me, and that I am tired.
And I know that you know how much I want to have this burden lifted.
And I know that if she’s not falling asleep, that you see value in this difficulty.
And that makes me want to make it valuable.
And all of the sudden I realized that in my desperation to help her sleep the past two nights, I had happened upon an additional technique for getting her to go to sleep. And remembered how I had been getting worried recently, wondering how I would ever wean her because nursing seemed to be the only way to get her back to sleep at night. And then I noticed the sweetness of holding my baby snugly with her head on my chest, a way she used to hate to be held.
And all of the sudden my “trial” had transformed a precious experience.