In Life and Teachings, Catherine of Genoa writes,
“It is because of this tender love that I need not ask anything of God for you. All I need to do is lift you up before his face.”
Many years ago, I came upon this truth that changed how I prayed for my children. They were becoming young adults and for me, their mother, they were in my circle of concern but not necessarily under my influence. They were forging their own ways in the world and I realize now how little I actually understood about their “inside stories.”
Those inside stories are how we interpret our experiences, form ways of seeing the world around us, and, yes, our mysterious imagining about how and what we become and do. We might be aware of this inner weaving or not. We don’t think our way into becoming ourselves, and that is true.
Prayer is another curious thing—particularly praying for those we love up close, like our children.
Perhaps Catherine of Genoa’s way of praying has always been with me—when I held those two precious lives as infants and knew they belonged to God and I couldn’t control their entrance and way in this world.
I imagined as a parent, many times that I did know what was best, but I didn’t really know. Now that my children are adults, a saint from centuries ago reminds me, again, that I don’t have to know. All I need to do is lift you up before his face. I don’t need to read God the dire news of the day or circumstances as I see them. I simply see my beloved ones as whole.
And so, I come to what Eugene Peterson says, “prayer is not a tool for doing or getting, but for being and becoming.”
“A shovel is a prayer to the farmer’s foot when he steps down and the soft earth gives way,” Carrie Newcomer sings. Prayer is fleshed out in many individual expressions. My writing and reading in God’s presence are a way of prayer as I listen for God’s voice in the unfolding of my life each day. Prayer summons my own “living” water.
In this kind of prayerful becoming, I learn to hold my adult children in a new light. I am not asking or suggesting or fixing or trying to change the people they are or their circumstances. Although, I do wish I could soothe their own learning and becoming. I can only open myself to seeing my children as God sees them, whether they recognize that presence or not.
I open myself to see the glimmers of grace and goodness that sit alongside the challenges, I too often envision. Love binds these things together and redresses them with new strength to draw upon for whatever lies ahead.
Now I must confess, I have prayed for my children all their lives, and who knows how that has impacted those lives. However, I am learning how praying for them is an act of my faithfulness, quelling my anxiousness about the details of our lives. Like the farmer’s foot on the shovel, prayer is my surrendering to a possibility that is out of my control or management.
Prayer is a doorway, an opening for another voice to spea.