(In preparation for Mother’s Day, I’ll be posting some prayers over the next several days.)
Father in heaven,
Thank you that we open the Scriptures and find there many stories of women who have struggled with the inability to conceive and bear children. Thank you that our humanity – in all of its experiences of joy and sadness – are known thoroughly to You, great God of the Universe, and make their appearance in the holy annals of history. That they are made mention of, that they were found important enough to record and pass on gives us hope that those preoccupations and prayers, those fears, were laid open to You, the God who sees, and were, in time, remembered.
How is it that You are mindful of any of the prayers we pray? Your grace is beyond what we imagine it.
The experience of infertility, as it’s been recorded in the Scriptures, is one of great pain. There is the sense of reproach that these women bear in their bodies, feeling as if their measure as women has been found wanting. There is envy that arises when other women, with seeming ease, conceive and bear children while those who cannot are sidelined as spectators in the game of raising a family. There are marital tensions produced by the impulse to blame and find fault. And the bitterness sown in the years of waiting seeps into the language of the soul. There are either angry prayers prayed – or there is born a refusal to pray at all.
Thank you that bitterness and prayer can co-exist, as You teach us in the story of Hannah. Thank you the the wrenching pain can be a means of faith, even the faith that tentatively calls, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed remember me.” Thank you that faith, worn out by years of waiting, such as we see in Sarah, is no obstacle for You to give and grant prayers that many have long given up praying. Thank you that infertility is not a curse of those who have not been “good” enough or “worthy” enough of your blessing: Elizabeth was righteous before you and walked blamelessly in all the commandments and statues of the Lord.
Sarah gave birth to a son in her old age: Isaac, or “He laughs.” Grant laughter and children to the families who long for them.
Rachel prayed for a child, and You gave her Joseph: “May he add.” Add children to the families who long for them.
Hannah prayed for a son and promised him to your service. Samuel was born: He was “heard of God.” Hear and answer the prayers of Your people.
Zechariah and Elizabeth rejoiced with their family and neighbours at the birth of John. The story of the miracle caused a stir: “What then shall this child be?” Grant more children of miracles, Father, and let the celebrations bring honour to Your name.
And when, by Divine right of mystery, You choose to do other than we ask, be to us the answer to all of our prayers: Living Bread and Living Water, by which we shall nourish the appetites of our souls and never have to be hungry or thirsty again.