As I’m praying for someone, I’ll think of all these good things I can do. Then I forget to do it.
This is really a husband-and-wife story. I’ll connect it to prayer, but first the marriage part.
It happens at least once a week. I’ll be in the middle of dinner, in the middle of an interesting story, and Carol, bless her, will gaze across at me and point to her lip. I know the signal all too well. It means, “There’s something on your lip, some spaghetti sauce or gravy or chocolate ice cream got stuck there. Wipe it off, please.”
Dutifully, I do. After all, this is Carol looking out for me. She doesn’t want me to look silly. She helps me clean up my act. Still, I often want to say, “I know I’ve got a dab of ricotta cheese on lip and I’ll use my napkin in a minute, but what I wanted to tell you was ...” The thing is, how does she know I know? And how can she pay attention to what I’m saying if I look like Bozo the Clown?
After years of this familiar scenario, it dawned on me that there is a spiritual lesson here (you wondered when I’d get to it, didn’t you?). We know our good intentions. They fill our head. But how does anyone else know how good we are unless we act? How is my good wife going to know that I’m going to wipe my mouth eventually if I don’t actually do it?
My prayers are often linked to good intentions. As I’m praying for someone, I’ll think of all these good things I can do: send him a note, shoot him an email, give him a call. Then I forget to do it. I’m like the husband with the smudge on his lip. God knows of my good intentions, but who else does? It all goes undetected unless I “put shoe leather on my prayers,” as a friend puts it. Putting shoe leather on prayers is just as important as the praying.
I can hear Carol saying, “I can’t believe you turned your bad manners into a story about prayer.” But then even a wife in a long happy marriage doesn’t know exactly what’s on her husband’s mind. He’s got to show her.