Prayers Across Beliefs: When [Inter]Faith Is All You've GotMorgan Shanahan
I don’t write about Faith much. Possibly because it’s just not one of the topics I’m very comfortable discussing in public, but also possibly because my own religion of practice happens to be Judaism and so while I’ll happily share my traditions, discussions of prayer, faith, and all those deeper, more personal elements of religion often leave me feeling uncomfortable or at worst, disrespectful. Afterall, only 2% of the world’s population shares my beliefs, so I’m almost always in the minority.
It’s also why, when my friends and loved ones are going through hard times, even when they ask for prayers directly, I’ll usually say: “I’m thinking of you” or “Sending you love”. And I am. It’s true. I hurt deeply when those who I love are hurting, but I don’t pray. I’m more likely to wish on an eyelash than talk to G-d directly. I’m a Jewish girl who went to Catholic School, now raising a Jewish daughter with a Catholic husband. My faith, like most, is complicated. My lack of prayer isn’t for a lack of belief, although I wouldn’t say I claim to have any idea what that entity is that I believe in exactly, but I know I believe in something greater than myself. It’s just that I believe and celebrate in my own way, and that way has rarely (if ever) included prayer outside of the synagogue or a holiday celebration.
My friend Diana has had one hell of a couple of years. If you’re a regular reader of Babble, you may have been following her journey all along, from the loss of her twin boys at 20weeks pregnant last May after a lengthy physical and emotional battle to save them, to deciding adoption was going to be the best way to expand their family, to learning adoption was likely not going to be an option for them, to finally, finally, having a full-term pregnancy and giving birth to her son Kaden last week. And then, just when you thought the universe could not possibly have anything more to dish out to my beautiful, loving, and awe-inspiring friend, we learned that the lower ventricles of Kaden’s heart were not functioning as they should, and that while there is a slim chance that his still-forming heart can heal itself, it is very possible that Diana’s sweet one-week-old boy will need a heart transplant. A heart transplant. My breath catches in my throat just typing those words, thinking of my friend in the NICU with her son, considering these terrifying options.
Like so many of us do here in the blogosphere when we don’t know where else to turn, Diana wrote these words on her website last night, a plea of sorts, a Mother desperate to help her baby —
My son lays on the verge of life and death as my hands are tied and my faith is rocked. I question it all. All the time. We are blown away by this, and I have to say I’m just barely holding it together and I’m so, so angry this is happening to our child.
As crazy as its beginning to sound to even me my God is a big God. He had different plans for Preston and Julian than my desperate prayers to let them live, but I still have a faint hope that miracles exist. And I’m asking begging all of you tonight with my broken Mama heart that misses all four of the children I can’t hold and feels like I’ve been dropped instead of carried please pray for something specific. I may be let down (in my human eyes) again, but I just need us to do this for my son:
Pray that God heals his heart. Pray that the power of the Lord is shown through a miracle. Pray that even with my small faith, God can take my imperfect prayers and all of yours and turn this into something powerful. Something big.
Like so many, I cried. And I felt helpless. But most of all, I was caught by Diana’s words — her faith was shaken, and she was asking for help getting her prayers heard. I have no idea what I believe. But I know what Diana believes, or at least what she is still wanting to believe with all her heart, and for the first time in my life I felt like there was something I had to say to G-d. One on one.
So I dropped to my knees. I clasped my hands and bowed my head. I started begging. Pleading. Vouching. It was clumsy and awkward, I didn’t know if I should look up or down, interlace my fingers, or press them together, but I was going to do the best I could. And then, without warning, I stopped pleading and wondering about how I was kneeling and a phrase filled my head: Misheberach.
Misheberach is the hebrew prayer for healing. The awkward feeling melted away. I whispered the familiar words for baby Kaden and felt assured they would be heard.
Faith and prayer are a strange thing. Too often, I think that we worry about the boxes we’ve put ourselves in and forget that positive energy and love are such a huge part of the recipe no matter which cookbook we’re reading. So like Diana, I am asking you to pray. To pray, or hope, or throw a penny in a fountain and make a wish, but just let your voice join the chorus of those asking for baby Kaden to get his miracle.
If you’re curious, I’m including an english translation to the Misheberach below, as well as a video I found on YouTube of three siblings singing the prayer for their aunt and uncle — their rendition is absolutely stunning, and worth listening to even if you believe something (or nothing) else entirely.
May the One who blessed our ancestors —
Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah —
bless and heal the one who is ill:
Kaden son of Diana and Sam.
May the Holy Blessed One
overflow with compassion upon him,
to restore him,
to heal him,
to strengthen him,
to enliven him.
The One will send him, speedily,
a complete healing — Amen.
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