Each week during the prayers of the people I make a mental inventory: do I know anyone who is ill? Anyone who is grieving? Anyone job-searching, traveling, celebrating? There’s always a pause after Pastor Bailey invites the assembled to share joys or requests. Sometimes I wonder if others, like me, are casting about for needs that are easy to name.
Illness is obvious.
My aunt’s cancer is back. Prayers for wisdom, that she’ll know what to do in terms of treatment options.
My friend’s dad is undergoing surgery this week. So, prayers that God will guide his doctors, and for a speedy recovery.
Unemployment. Travel. Weddings, new babies, grief.
Then, perhaps, natural disaster, or conflicts that can be called a “situation.”
For the fires in Australia, and the loss of habitats and wildlife, and safety for the firefighters.
For our partner agency in Honduras, that they’ll be able to raise enough support to offset the loss of government grants that were cut last year.
For the turmoil right now over Iran, so—for peace, I guess.
It is good, this inventory. It prompts me to consider the lives of my far-off loved ones, what they might need, how I might care for them. And hearing stories from the other pews is good, too. I remember that each person in this room has a whole spinning, heart-breaking life outside of it, and that we still belong to each other. It is also incomplete.
Each week I wonder if others, like me, spend the whole prayer thinking of all the other stuff they didn’t say.
I’m so tired, and this job is so hard, but if I quit I’ll be a failure again; I’ll be thirty and single and unemployed and I don’t want to show up at my sister’s wedding alone and have to tell my aunts that I don’t even have a job anymore, this job I moved across the country for, and I’ll have nothing to show for the last ten years, and I feel very, very alone.
My partner is struggling with his mental health, and I don’t feel like I can tell anyone about it because it’s so personal and complicated and not my story to share, but I don’t know how to help, and it’s very scary to feel like he might not be okay again for a long time, and I also feel so awfully guilty when I ask for anything—but it’s hard on me too; it’s hard to love someone and to need things to be different at the same time.
People keep asking when we’re having kids, and sometimes that makes me so irritated and scared and lonely I can’t breathe, because it’s none of their damn business—but I’m also desperate to talk about how afraid I am that if I have a baby I won’t be me anymore, that I’ll just get smaller and smaller, and I’ll hate myself for it, or I’ll fight it and then everyone will hate me.
Sometimes I feel like every choice I’ve made has moved me further and further away from the people I love, and sometimes it feels like they left me, and visiting them is like visiting a planet where everything is upside down, and I’m mad because they believe all kinds of horrible things, and I’m mad because I miss being a family, and I don’t know how to mourn the fact that they are not who I thought they were.
My wife is waiting to hear back about a round of grad school applications, and we’re fine, but I’m tired of waiting to find out what’s next for us and if we’ll have to move and I don’t want to resent it, or resent her, but I almost do, and that scares me.
Honestly, I’m just sad because it’s 45 degrees out in January in Michigan, but I can’t enjoy the sunshine on warm winter days because it just reminds me that climate change is destabilizing the whole planet and when I look out at the future all I see is things just getting worse and worse and worse.
Every week I shift in my seat; I sip the dregs of my coffee or cross my legs the other way and I think about friends who are desperately lonely, loved ones with whom my relationship is complicated or distant or strained; I think about my students, sometimes, and all the heartache of being young in this moment, and also the heartache of being old, and the many and various aches of being alive, and all the problems that are amorphous and unnameable, and I think about how easy it is to feel that there is no one listening, and then, when the moment comes, we all say together—
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.
Katie is a doctoral student in English and education at the University of Michigan. She loves the New York Times crossword puzzle, advice columns, oceans, and dogs of all kinds.