“Grandma, how can we pray for you?” I asked.
For the 40 days of Lent, my husband, Daniel, and I did an experiment of sorts, and each day leading up to Easter we prayed for a different friend or family member.
I was especially curious what my grandma would request prayer for. She’s in pretty remarkable health, physically and mentally, considering she’s almost 90. But even so, she no doubt has her share of aches and pains she might want relief from. Or, I figured, she might ask for prayer for Grandpa, whose health has been gradually declining in recent years. On top of that, she has 12 children, more grandchildren than I can keep track of, and even some great-grandchildren now. There were plenty of items she could have ticked off for a prayer list.
But after a pause, she surprised me with her response. “You know,” she said, “I’ve spent most of my life petitioning God for things. But at this stage in my life, I find I have just one prayer left.”
I held my breath, waiting for some profound spiritual insight.
“I just want to say thank you.”
I knew phone etiquette compelled me to say something, but an unswallowable lump had lodged itself in my throat.
Grandma broke the silence. “God has been so faithful to us. It’s easy to forget all the beautiful things he has done,” she said. “I’ve spent so much time asking. Now it’s time to be thanking.”
The day Daniel and I chose to pray for Grandma and Grandpa fell less than a week later. That day Grandma found herself by Grandpa’s side in a hospital room. It was “just” the flu, but in his weakened condition, the doctors were concerned. He was dehydrated, and his white blood cell count was alarmingly low.
I confess that my mind was distracted as we prayed: Would Grandma change her request if she’d known what was coming? I wondered. Does she regret not asking for protection, for healing, for a physical miracle? What good is thankfulness, after all, when you’re sitting beside the hospital bed of someone you love?
But I know Grandma better than that. No doubt she was sitting by Grandpa’s side offering prayers of thanksgiving even at that moment. Thanking God for giving her this man in the first place. Thanking him for the 66 good years they’d had together. Thanking him for being God, even now.
I hope I can learn that kind of graceful praying someday. And with a model like the one I have, I hope I won’t have to wait until I’m 88.
What can you say thank you for today?