Prayer in the heat of the moment

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I have to admit, I felt pretty overwhelmed. My new baby girl was quite demanding, almost around the clock, and I didn't feel up to the challenge of caring for her. My husband was doing more than his fair share of baby duty. Within about nine months, however, she had developed an unnatural attachment to him and would become almost hysterical when he wasn't around.

My husband has his own business and gets calls from clients in the evenings. During these calls, he would retreat to a quiet corner of our small apartment. My daughter would grow anxious because Daddy wasn't available, and she would cry and scream for the duration of the phone call. My efforts to calm her down just made her more upset. I felt rejected and useless.

I'd had some success praying my way through relationship issues before, so I began praying about this one. During moments of quiet communion with God while no one else was around, I felt peaceful and even competent as a parent. But those feelings would vanish immediately in the evening when I was confronted again with my daughter's hysterical behavior.

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I knew I actually needed to pray even during those moments, but it seemed like a Herculean task. Self-pity (was I so bad a mom that my own daughter wasn't comforted by me?) overwhelmed my impulse to pray, and I would put my thoughts on autopilot until the scene was over.

An idea from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy was key in the turnaround of our family life. I felt that selflessness was being demanded of me but that I was not mature enough to be selfless. I was constantly teetering back and forth between how I wanted to be as a mother (selfless and giving) and how I saw myself acting (immaturely and prone to self-pity).

But this gentle observation from that book really spoke to me: "If the scales are evenly adjusted, the removal of a single weight from either scale gives preponderance to the opposite" (pg. 168). I did not have to make conscious adjustments in my parenting style. If, instead, during these outbreaks I could simply affirm and believe one simple fact about my daughter and me, that would tip the scales away from chaos and toward peace.

The simple fact I chose to affirm was that both my daughter and I were being guided and parented by God. I did not have to coax her into liking me; we both received an overwhelming dose of love from God continuously. So I didn't have to feel as if affection were missing from our relationship and she didn't have to feel as if her only source of security were her dad.

OK ... time to try it out. The next few scenes were still difficult for me, but I had a method of praying that I really believed in. Outside appearances remained the same for a while, but I was gradually changing my perspective.

Healing to our household came gently but surely. What vanished first was not the outbreaks themselves, but my own self-pity. Once that no longer paralyzed me, I could much more effectively distract my daughter from her single-minded desire to be in Daddy's arms, and I could engage her in an activity with Mommy, such as singing or reading. In other words, I could parent effectively, too. Little by little, she responded to the attention I was giving, and finally she began to enjoy it. I certainly liked it, too. The outbursts virtually disappeared, and today she is equally and normally attached to her dad and me.

I learned that "heat of the moment" prayer does not have to be profound or polished or even articulated in order to be effective. It just needs to be heartfelt and steadfast.

He shall feed his flock
like a shepherd:
he shall gather the lambs
with his arm,
and carry them in his bosom,
and shall gently lead those
that are with young.
Isaiah 40:11

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