Do you ever wonder, as you slog through your list of prayers, does this matter? These words – in the form of petitions and praises and pleadings – do they matter?
Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Discouraged? I do.
So much heartache. So many needs. Needs that outnumber my prayers. Needs that outweigh my weightless, colorless, tuneless words.
Discouragement is stronger than gravity and can pull us down with a force that pins us to the lowest places, the cold, hard places so that we can’t even lift our heads to look up. And in comparison, our prayers seem to drift away like vapors in the wind.
One day, not too long ago, as I sat on my bed praying, I felt an emptiness and futility pressing in on me. I found myself asking,
How can these prayers I offer up today – please bring k peace, keep her safe and help her share your love with others today…completely heal and restore c… comfort my friend who misses her mother… save that marriage on the verge of divorce…bring that young man off the streets and into a rehab that will make a difference… – how can these prayers make a difference? How, God? It all seems so pointless. And I just feel like giving up.
And then I thought of snowflakes.
Alone, each snowflake is of little consequence. Weightless, colorless and silent, it falls. It lands. It melts. And is gone.
But snowflakes rarely fall alone and when they persist, together, over time, they fall one upon another, upon another, upon another, until they become something greater:
A dusting of a billion crystals, like stars scattered on the earth.
A gentle, shining, white blanket to cover the dark and weary landscape.
Magical midnight walks in the silence of a snowstorm.
Fields for building snowmen, tunnels and forts; fields filled with laughter.
A sterling glaze, gleaming silver-blue beneath the full moon.
And drifts that block the doors, halt traffic, bury cars.
Heavy coats on branches, leaves and wires, bringing down trees and cutting off power.
And in the spring, snowmelt to quench the thirst of trees and flowers as they wake from their winter nap.
Rivers and streams swollen, bursting, flooding, nourishing farmland, filling basements, carving new paths.
Together, snowflakes, at the very least, change the landscape, change how we see things. At other times, they rearrange our lives – shutting us in, keeping us from people, jobs and events; or displacing us, throwing us together with family for weeks while we wait for electricity to be restored. At the most, these tiny vessels of life melt together, water valleys and nourish nations.
So what if, sometimes, prayers are like snowflakes?
Tiny, weightless, silent, colorless, but when they persist together, over time, one upon another, upon another, upon another, they have the power to change how we see things, rearrange our lives and bring life to the nations.
What if my prayers, day after day – combined with your prayers and her prayers and his prayers – pile up, prayer upon prayer, layer upon layer, glittering beneath the ever-present Light? What if our prayers, together, have the power to reflect that Light, transform landscapes and bring life?
And suddenly, the lead-like heaviness lifted and a gentle, white, fleece blanket took its place, easing my anxiety, comforting my soul.
Now, when my prayers become tinged with anxiety, when I start to feel the weight of unanswered prayer, when I being to strive for elegant, exactly-right words, when I strain to envision every answer or pair each request with a possible solution, or when I attempt to infuse each prayer with a powerful act of my own will, I remember the snowflakes. I remember the soft, white blanket. I remember that I am not alone and that I, alone, am not responsible for – or even capable of – the answers that I seek.
And I remember that even together, a billion snowflakes have no light of their own, but brighten the world by just being, by reflecting the light that shines upon them.
And I remember that these same snowflakes need the warmth and light of a springtime sun to melt together and nourish the nations.
So I offer up my prayers imperfectly, weightless, silent, without color – like vapors in the wind – but still I offer them, one at a time, alongside of yours.
I offer them up in faith to the One who gathers our prayers together, infuses them with His meaning and purpose and will, the One who colors them in and sings them on the strings of His heart.
I offer up my prayers like snowflakes.