It worked if I prayed for something and I got it:
- Passing spelling tests
- A new (or even used) bicycle
- Friends and relatives to be healed and not die
- Losing weight
It didn't work if I prayed for something and I didn't get it:
- Failing my spelling test
- No new bicycle
- People I loved who died
- Not only no weight loss but actually weight gain
Mind you, I usually hadn't studied thoroughly enough for the spelling tests, the bicycle had been meant as a reward for making honors grades, loved ones were just too sick to pull through, and I just ate too much and didn't move enough.
Prayer was a quid-pro-quo thing: I pray, God gives. And if I didn't get, God did me wrong.
I'm older and - I hope - a little wiser now. Prayer can't get me good grades (or a grades-dependent bicycle) if I don't study. It can't make the people I love get better if their bodies or minds just can't or won't handle healing. And it sure can't make me lose weight because there isn't a magic pill other than the one called "eat less, move more, and, for God's sake woman, put down the 18th chocolate chip cookie."
But here's what I can pray for:
- The willingness to prepare for exams and presentations even when I'm tired and just don't feel like it;
- The willingness to save up and buy myself a new bicycle;
- The ability to comfort people I love and the willingness to make phone calls or send letters or give hugs;
- The willingness to put down the 18th chocolate chip cookie and go for a walk instead.
Today I don't pray for things so much as attitudes. I pray for guidance to do the next right thing. I pray for the willingness to be willing. It's not nearly as much fun as praying for a bicycle, but it's a whole lot more productive.