The morning after our house burned down three years ago, we sat in stunned silence, taking in the wreckage and work that lay ahead. In a weak attempt to cheer everyone up, I joked, “I’d better watch out what I pray for, because my prayers are powerful, and I’m afraid I’ve been praying for more excitement, and more time with my family….”
As our losses faded with time and our lives returned to our various versions of normal, my feeble “night-before-the-fire-prayer” attempt at humor has become family lore, growing to include (retroactively) pleas for time off work, for new stuff, stronger muscles, weight loss, unique topics of conversation, time in nature, novel experiences, interesting stories to tell my future grandchildren, new learning, and more patience…. And yes, I received all that.
The chaos and tragedy on the Gulf Coast can be in no way compared with our relatively tiny little personal loss (no one was hurt, we were insured and financially secure, our neighborhood, jobs and support systems were intact.) Hurricane Katrina’s suffering victims have endured the irremediable and irreparable tragic losses of loved ones—family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers. Many have been injured, and most have lost all they ever worked for, and must begin rebuilding again from nothing. Many lost their jobs and their livelihoods, all their social support, the towns they grew up in, everything they might once have fallen back on. Everything, in fact, except God.
What prayers, the night before such a devastating storm, could possibly have been answered by Hurricane Katrina?
I’ll give it a try.
Help me to appreciate my family, friends, and neighbors, my faith, my character, my education, my memories, and my two strong hands. Help me appreciate all that I have—my home, my possessions, my comforts, my pleasures.
Help me to see with new eyes the good in people, and to remember that the highest value is the value of human life everywhere. Help me to focus on helping, not hurting, and to learn to give as freely as I have received. Help me see clearly that mankind is one family, that we are all neighbors, that we are all, in fact, one, completely dependent upon one another.
Help me to drop my childish barriers toward differences in education, social classes, races, colors, religions, and nationalities, and to see only the face of God in everyone, especially those in need. Help me to support a proud, reliable, world-class American disaster-relief system available anywhere in the world, at a moment’s notice. Help my country avoid adding to the sum of human misery by turning forever away from war and every other form of political violence. Help me to work to build a wiser global energy future, and international and domestic harmony.
Help me become part of creating an exemplary, environmentally-inspired American Gulf Coast, and a safe, modern, compassionate New Orleans retaining all her unique greatness, spirit and traditions.
Help me remember that it’s always darkest before the dawn, to look for silver linings in dark clouds, and to accept that the Lord works in mysterious ways.
Help me to remember that you are my strength, my hope, my ever-present help in times of trouble. You maketh me to lie down in green pastures, you leadeth me beside the still waters, you restoreth my soul. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me.