I have a huge bulletin board in my room, and it’s been there since I was about 4 years old. Through the years, it’s had just about everything from my childhood pinned to it at some point or another. No… really. The memories that consumed my board ranged from my “cursive license” - you should have seen the 2nd grade me pinning it up there for everyone to see, it was a pretty big deal - to my 2013 Justin Bieber concert tickets, to birthday cards from relatives, to pictures from Friday night football games, to corsages I’d worn to school dances, to Cubs tickets from the summer before. My board continued to grow more and more cluttered as time went on. Nothing on it had any correlation (unless you can find some connection between my 3rd place swim-team ribbons from the fourth grade, and my high school report cards).
So you get the point: it was basically just filled with a bunch of “stuff”. Earlier this year, and I’m still not sure why it took me this long, I realized that all of this “stuff” really had no meaning to me anymore. Sure, it kinda looked cool, and so many memories over the years had been pinned onto this board, but I still found myself asking the question, “Why on earth do I still have all of this?” Long story short: I ditched the junk, and the huge board stayed blank for about a week.
I had no idea what to do with it, and at this point, it was just taking up space. We had the day off of school, so I woke up early to go to church with my mom. During the service, because the morning service is usually quieter and not so busy, we all prayed aloud before we left, each of us asking everyone else to keep a certain person in their prayers that week.
A woman started to get teary as she offered up her intention, explaining that her son had been struggling a lot lately with different mental illnesses and problems in school. She mentioned his name. I didn’t want to forget it. I wanted to be able to remember so I could think about him and pray for him throughout the week. I took a post-it note out of my Bible and wrote down his name, we finished up praying as a group, and we went home.
When I went to put my Bible away, I took out the post-it so I wouldn’t forget to pray for the boy and his mom I had learned about earlier. As I thought of a good place to keep the note, a place where I’d see it every day and be reminded of the two people, the answer of putting it on my bulletin board only became obvious.
So that’s where it stayed.
For the whole week.
Actually, that’s where it still is.
Along with about 200 other prayers that I’ve written over the past few months, the name of the boy and his mom are still pinned to that huge white bulletin board.
Over the past 7 months, I’ve been adding onto this prayer board week by week. I’ve really discovered the power of prayer, and the peace that comes in lifting others up to the Lord when they need it most. I’ve prayed my whole life, but it’s never been as meaningful as it is to me now. Whether I’m praying for a friend, someone I haven’t talked to in awhile, one of my family members, or even myself, I’ll take two seconds to write it down on a notecard and pin it up. I see it every morning and every night, and I’m humbled to be able to pray to a God that listens to all of my intentions.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This peace that is talked about in Philippians 4:6-8 is real, and is so accessible to us from Jesus, through prayer. I’ve grown to love this verse, because it reiterates the fact that it’s okay to not understand what’s going on around us 24/7. It’s okay to not have 100% control over what goes on in our lives. Praying about things rather than worrying about them can work wonders in our lives’.
I think it’s easy to underestimate the power of prayer. I mean, how much will talking to someone who you can’t even see really help you out, right? I used to think that too. I was never against praying, I guess I just wasn’t really thinking about the words I was saying. I would primarily pray when things were going wrong; when I really needed something. But when I started my prayer board, I started to pray all the time: after a great day, after a not so great day, after everyday. There’s no right or wrong way to pray, but one thing does remain constant about prayer: it’s most powerful when it’s most present. We’ll get more out of the wonderful connection to Christ that prayer provides if we can learn to pray and praise Him through all times, not just the ugly.
Through prayer, we come to a closer realization of God’s will for us, rather than our own. Prayer can commonly be mistaken as a list of things that we need help with, and when these things aren't resolved immediately, we tend to doubt the plan that is in store for us. As humans, we like to see results. It’s not wrong, it’s just human. But when these results aren’t immediate, we become impatient, anxious, and doubtful. However, when we learn to truly place our trust in Jesus, and actively communicate with Him through prayer, we can see this anxiety and doubt being wiped away. Going back to the verse above from Philippians: if we dwell in our anxieties, we can assure ourselves to never find peace. If we can learn to live in trusting our savior, we can find the hope that he leaves for each and every one of us.
I’m glad I finally came to my senses and realized I could actually make something useful out of this board, even if it did take me 14 years. I’ve learned the power and comfort that comes from the words, “I’m praying for you,” and the reciprocated feelings that it instills in others when you mention the same thing to them. When you find yourself overwhelmed, pray for reassurance. When you find yourself nervous, pray for confidence. Even when you find yourself over-the-moon happy, pray for a grateful heart. There’s always someone or something we can lift up in prayer, because God can do more in one minute than we can do in a lifetime.
I still wonder about that boy and his mom. I haven't seen her since, and because of that, have no idea how her son is doing. But I still pray for them. And sometimes, that is all we can do: pray.
“In my deepest, darkest moments, what really got me through was a prayer. Sometimes my prayer was 'Help me.' Sometimes a prayer was 'Thank you.' What I've discovered is that intimate connection and communication with my creator will always get me through because I know my support, my help, is just a prayer away.”
- Iyanla Vanzant
written by: Maggie Petersen of Chicago, IL