When we are born, we come complete bearing the image of our Creator. We come with the essence of God’s full of love, full of hope, and full of possibility. But as we grow older, there are unenviable hardships and challenges that lead us to lose sight of the essence He gave of Himself when He thought of us. With every heartache, with every disappointment, that manifestation fades away. With every wall we hit, with every fall we take, we stop seeing ourselves in God’s image and we lose that innate faith we were born with and thus we also lose the practice and the faith to pray when we are not in hardship. We rationalize this by asking: why would God allow these things to happen? If He is the God that knows the number of the stars in the sky and the sum of the sand on the shore, He should be able to control what happens in our lives, right? And in this moment of doubt is when we forget that the power of prayer is not solely to be used when in hardship, it is also to be used when we are receiving favor and blessings and thus, we cannot let circumstance dictate our relationship with God. This unfortunately, is a lesson I began learning in a moment of family tragedy.
My Journey of Preparation
In 1987 my oldest sister died from a very rare infectious disease; she was 25 years old. She was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend to many. She was fully alive in the prime of her story and with no notice the world forever changed. I watched her come in and out of consciousnesses and fight for every breath for 20 days. What I remember most about those 20 days was the deafening silence. My faith had met its match and it was death taking me sister from my arms. I was only 23 years old and had no idea what to do.
During this experience, all I could fall back on was what I heard about God since I was seven years old: God was a comforter, a promise keeper, a strength giver, a heart maker, and a peace provider. And yet I knew no peace, I felt no comfort, had no strength and most of all had no words to pray. All the things I thought I knew up to that point about God and prayer would prove to be useless because I had no words, no former experience, no faith nor traditions of faith that would provide guidance for how to experience that traumatic loss through the eyes of a loving God. I tried desperately to conjure up feelings that would translate into what I had been told about God. The faith that I had practiced up until that point was a weak, undisciplined, and self-absorbed. I was not prepared to face this situation through the lens of a loving and merciful God. I did not have the belief or the skills to know that prayer at this point, although important, cannot be limited to moments of darkness in our lives.
A Lifestyle of Prayer
What I learned in the years to come was that Bible has an unapologetic position that nothing is wasted. Those 20 days gave me a behind the curtain look at what life would feel like outside of the spirit of love. I might have lived my entire life in a story limited instead of a life He had imagined for me. But instead, I leaned through this tragic loss. I saw the language of love through His WORD, His WAY and His WONDERMENT. I learned that every experience is a form of preparation and thus cannot be underestimated. I learned that prayer is a discipline. It is a spiritual rhythm. It takes time attentiveness to the Presence of Love. It is the richest gift this side of heaven. I accepted words which at the time felt like an assault to my grieving spirit.
This experience, among many others, paved the way on how I would spend the next 30 years. I have challenged myself to experience the gospel language and translate it into a strategy. I absorbed messages from Saints like Paul who throws down the spiritual gauntlet and instructs us to pray without ceasing, always rejoicing, and in all circumstances giving thanks no matter how little I had. I aligned with the idea that that my daily prayer life would develop through fearless and ongoing conversations with God. Through prayer I could seek His face, listen for His answers, and know Him more intimately and thus know myself. This involved a Herculaneum movement from self-sufficiency, self-gratifications and preoccupations. This kind of belief led to a radical communion through the Holy Spirit that now abides in me as it was meant to always be. This lifestyle is moving away from the flaws of our human nature towards the peace and path He has prepared for me. I became dependent on the one who calls me His.
When you receive prayer as your power source and allow it to guide you in good times and in bad times equally, you will find peace that passes all understanding. Just as the word promises!
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Kathy Lewis is the Founder and Executive Director of Why Not Charleston, which is a non-profit organization located in Charleston, SC focused creating opportunities and experiences that connect believers on mission to reach and serve their communities. Kathy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org