As my family and I were dashing in to church at the last possible moment before mass began that Sunday, our friend and pastor Fr. John Yonkovig met us in the back of church spoke these words to me, “If you are going to worry, don’t pray. If you are going to pray, don’t worry.” This phrase came across as somewhat trite under the circumstances. Just having received news that months of chemo did not have the desired “shock and awe” affect, and still in a wheelchair post limb salvage surgery (where my femur, knee and tibia were replaced with titanium), I guess I was expecting a simple “I’ll be praying for you.”
Under these, and most conditions, I was comfortable in both prayer and worry, as co-existing entities. Worry and prayer are besties, aren’t they? As evidence, I present the Church Ladies – the most pew-side prayerful people I can think of. The Church Ladies spend (seemingly) hours on their knees in prayer, seemingly consumed with worry. The worry makes the prayer seem more fervent somehow.
Still mental muddling the pre-mass comment, I took my seat with my family, in the last pew in the back of the church. Here, I could arrive and depart almost undetected. No one’s sorrowful stares to answer back to, less physical (and infectious) contact and no worries about my scarf going askew, revealing my very bald head. This location also meant we were close to the “noisy cricket” children’s section.
This particular Sunday was no exception. The noisy crickets were humming along through mass, driving matchbox cars along the cliffs of the missal holder, and coloring pictures of Jesus telling stories to children. Post communion, the matchbox driver had fallen asleep in his father’s arms. The child’s head was resting heavily on his Dad’s shoulder, and he was out cold. Peace throughout the land. I could pray in relative quiet now, with my new focus on not worrying.
Then it hit me. The planets aligned. To pray without worry means to give yourself over to your Father. The child in front of me gave himself over to his dad. He did not sleep in his father’s arms worrying that he may be dropped. He trusted his dad with his safety, comfort and care. That is what I am supposed to be doing. “Amen, I say to you, unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 18:3. To worry would be akin to asking a trusted friend or family member to do something really important, then worrying that they weren’t up to the task, didn’t hear you, or just dismissed your request out of hand.
If you trust Him, then trust Him. Don’t worry. Pray for your intention, do your part, and let go. Just let go. Will your prayer be answered? Yes. Will it be answered exactly as you want it to be? No. It’s God the Father, not God the Genie. Bummer news, I know. But trust that your father does what is best for you, and if you are going to worry, don’t pray, if you are going to pray, don’t worry. Thank you Fr. John Yonkovig. I am working on it still.