by Eric Muhr
When I was five years old, my dad brought home a Dalmatian puppy for my birthday. He named her “Candy” for her sweet disposition. I did not want a dog. To make matters worse, Candy was not a nice dog. She barked, and she bit ankles. I was afraid of Candy.
I asked my dad to find a new home for Candy, suggesting that maybe Candy needed a family that would be more patient, more understanding, better equipped to love her in spite of all of her problems. My dad laughed. He thought I was funny. But I was desperate. So I prayed. I had learned in Sunday school that God answers prayer, so I asked God to kill Candy and take her to live in heaven with the angels.
It was a selfish prayer. But two weeks later, Candy got sick. Candy got very sick. And then she died.
I remember that last day of Candy’s life. I was sitting with her in the back yard. It was a beautiful summer day. Warm. Quiet. Candy lay in the grass. I slowly stroked her ears. And I wondered about this thing called prayer. I knew I had asked God for something cruel. And God did it. I thought God must not be as wise as people said. It made me angry.
For a long time after Candy’s death, I didn’t pray because I was afraid of making God do something bad again. And I’ve been thinking about me – that fear-filled, five-year-old boy, who foolishly thought he could use his words to make God fix the world. As if prayer were a magic formula. As if God were just a granter of wishes.
Looking back, I now know it wasn’t my prayer that killed Candy. That’s not how prayer works. American Christianity taught me that prayer is how people make God get things done, but prayer is more like a commitment. Or a discipline.
Today, I wait. I listen. I focus my breath and my attention. I practice hope, perseverance, and patience.
Sometimes I pray.