My brother (one of them) hastily, but carefully parked his car on the edge of the highway, unlike the car that was perpendicular to oncoming traffic, half of it’s frame in one lane, and half in the other. There were no emergency vehicles in sight, the only flashing lights were from a huge semi with it’s flashers between oncoming traffic and the beat up little car, if not for that, I’m sure that car would have seen more than one accident that day. My brother, his girlfriend, and I opened our car doors and walked briskly towards that car we had passed. As we got close I saw the a shadow of a girl, wailing, running too and fro, I saw her throw herself onto the grass at the edge of the highway, her arms in front of her like a shield, sobbing and twisting herself on the grass. I looked from her to the car. My heels crunched on glass. Please don’t let anyone be dead… The thought hadn’t occurred to me, but seeing that little girl’s state, I prayed for strength, lest I see a bleeding form in the backseat.
The girl’s mother was shouting frantically that they were okay. She screamed for her daughter to calm down saying ‘“Accidents happen, something was f***ed up with the car, I lost control, but you’re fine! You’re fine! Calm down!!” I breathed a sigh of relief hearing the mother shouting vs crying, (as it didn’t seem like something she would say if someone was dead) and being close enough to see that the backseat was empty, I breathed a sigh of relief. My brother called 911 and we all inquired into the particulars and what else we could do to help, along with the truck driver and another lady who had stopped. My brother’s girlfriend called the mother’s phone to find it in the car, and I helped her get her belongings out of the car.
I found myself thanking God that I’d had panic attacks before. I haven’t had many. Only one since I moved to the D.C. area, but in that moment, if I knew anything, I knew her mother’s shouts of “CALM DOWN! YOU ARE OKAY LAYLA!” weren’t helping to calm the poor 10-yr old down. I held her hands, helped her regulate her breathing. Her panicked gasps for breath got a little less shaky and she was able to get some air. Before I knew it I was hugging her as she sobbed, assuring her that ”it will be okay… Just breath. It will be okay, you’re going to be okay, just focus on breathing… Breath with me…” Emphasis on the fact that it will be okay, even if it really didn’t seem okay right then and there. it would be about 10 minutes from the time we stopped to when emergency personnel arrived. What else was left to do until then? The only thing was just waiting, and hoping that the girl and her mother could stay calm. The girl’s breaths were still shaky, as the mother assured her yet again, shouting, though this time softly. “I don’t care about the car, we’re okay we’re okay, you calm down and I can calm down okay?! I don’t care if I can’t go to work and you can’t go to school, we’re alive Layla, we’re alive! That’s what’s important.” I heard the girl’s breath growing jagged once again. I don’t think the girl was thinking about how she would get to school, or about the car… She was just in shock. I looked down the highway, there were still no flashing lights other than the semi’s.
“Would it be okay if we prayed with you?” I asked, before I could stop myself. I was nervous for what her response would be, but the mother responded quickly, in a sob, “Yes, please!” So I called the two of my party over and we put our arms around each other, helping to shield the mother and her daughter from the chilly air. I’m a strong advocate of just doing something as soon as you have the urge – providing it’s something you know to be morally right – before you let yourself talk yourself out of it because of fear (Talked about this in ‘Do Hard Things‘). My brother and I prayed, for them moving forward, and thanked God for the fact that they were still alive. The mother chimed in then, echoing my grateful words. “Yes, thank you we are alive,” She prayed so quietly, so brokenly, unlike her shouts prior. She pulled her daughter close. “The big man of steel has got us Layla, we’re alive, he protected us Layla, he’s got us. Our car is gone but we still have life Layla, we still have each other. Because he protected us Layla, he protected us.” Near death experiences always have a way of putting things into perspective, and can be a source of great gratitude if we let it be that. The mother turned away from us, breaking out of the huddle, and looked into her daughter’s eyes, calmly reassuring her – this time completely calmly – and they both seemed in peace as we saw the lights in the distance.
As we turned to leave and let the paramedics take over, the women thanked me for the prayer… We helped her calm down her child, find her phone, her glasses, called 911… and here she was thanking me for the prayer. Seems that out of everything, praying was the thing that helped them the most. The calm that the two got, was that because we prayed for that, or was it the prayer itself that simply had a calming effect? Does it matter?
I wrote a post a few months ago about how prayer is powerless, more for us than for God. Essentially I said that I believe God can, and will do whatever he’s gonna do. I said, more or less that I didn’t see how simply praying as part of your routine wasn’t necessary, and I don’t believe in praying for things to happen, but instead doing what needs to be done. That’s the gist of it anyway, but I recommend reading it all the same (You can find it here) .
I still don’t believe in praying for something to happen and expecting God to do it. I still believe that prayer is more for us, and for our state of mind than for God… but, I’ve changed my tune a little, in the sense that I’m starting to see prayer as a gift. Yes, it’s not necessary, God’s gonna do, what God’s gonna do. However, I have found incredible peace and focus the past month from prayer. I’m normally happy, and thankful to God for life, even if I’m not praying all the time. I’ve gone through a little bit of a rough patch however, and coming to the end of it, I feel so thankful for it, for the renewed faith in Jesus, in prayer, in his power. I have been thinking about writing this post on prayer for the past few weeks, but being able to pray for those two people on the highway last Sunday night… That just felt like a confirmation, that yes, prayer is an amazing tool.
That incident also softened my heart. Me, the hardened heart skeptic, who believes in Jesus but is passionate in (respectfully) tearing apart doctrines, traditions, and beliefs that I don’t think our necessary or helpful for a Christian to believe. I don’t think of myself as very spiritual, or a prayer. (Pray-er? As in a praying person? Prayer? Vs saying a ‘prayer’ but a person who prays would be called a ‘prayer’? I am confused on that one). I am not one of those people who will say ‘you’re in my prayers’ unless of course you actually are – but if I don’t actually stop right then and there I won’t remember. So I don’t say it much, because as comforting as that phrase may be, I’ve found in the past when I’ve said it, I didn’t actually pray for that person. So I think it’s better if you think of saying that, just stop what you’re doing and pray with them, it means more.
That little nudge I felt to initiate the prayer on the highway? That’s just a God thing, that’s honestly not a me thing at all. I wouldn’t have even asked it if I hadn’t been praying more recently, and I wouldn’t have been praying more recently if I wasn’t going through a rough patch…. so it all works out for God’s glory. I don’t know what exactly calmed them down, I guess it was all of it put together. Huddling so that they weren’t so cold, If it was our quiet voices that soothed them, was it the act of stopping everything, was it a distraction from the beat up car, when the mother actually prayed, or was it an answer to our prayers for calm? Does it really matter? It was a God thing, and they were better for it, so I’ll just go ahead and say God did it – End of story. Of course we did everything else we could do, in that case there wasn’t anything left to do. In the end the prayer put everything into perspective, it brought God in the picture, it brought peace and clarity.
This past month, starting my day with a prayer, a one or two sentence prayer, nothing crazy (I’m a little spiritually lazy – but working on it). However just praying that prayer, starting my day with a prayer, it has really helped me get through the stuff that was troubling me. Do act on things, don’t expect God to do everything for you but if you are the least bit concerned about the state of your heart, or of your mind, prayer is beautiful way to calm down, and find clarity, at least that is what I have relearned. Prayer isn’t some magic charm to make everything okay, but it’s a moment, or few minutes that can help you focus, and let God make the big picture a little clearer. I have recently seen a few different scenarios, my own life included, where praying in the difficult time actually made that time, more of a blessing than a trial. That being said, as I’ve come out from the stressful spot I was in… Moving forward I’m going to do my best to keep prayer as a part of my morning routine. After all, the more we think about someone or talk to someone the closer we get to them (usually), and I would ideally like to be closer to God. Also, praying on the highway gave a peace and intention for moving forward. Although praying in the morning is not as extreme as that, I want to continue embracing that peace and clarity every morning. In my old post I believe I said it might be great but I didn’t see the need for it for me personally, but now I’m seeing that it really does add something if you’re intentional about it. It’s one thing to have a positive attitude without trying, it’s another thing when you’re purposeful about it through prayer.
For those of you who commented last time why I was wrong… Okay fine you kind of win. 😉 I really appreciate your feedback, and I’m gonna give this prayer thing another go.