I confess I’m not sure why God made prayer so important, but I believe it is. It changes us; it changes our world, and it changes how we see our world. In September, 2001 when I volunteered for disaster relief with The Salvation Army, I thought I was going to do grief counseling in the morgue. I asked my church to pray that I had what I needed to help the people I met. I thought I needed things like the right words and emotional fortitude.
When I got to New York City, the Army decided that only officers would work in the morgue, so I was assigned to a supply station at ground zero. The first night I worked, you could see the air and breathing it without a mask for even short periods caused sore throats and coughing. Our station provided those masks along with countless other things from boots to bottled water. Perhaps more important than the supplies, we provided a listening ear to everyone who needed to tell and re-tell their story of 9/11. No one liked wearing the masks and on the third day, a heavy rain cleaned the air almost miraculously. One young man who worked for the Port Authority asked me if I could sew a button on his shirt. I had no needle and thread but told him I would send a request for a sewing kit and he should come back in a few hours. We got new supplies several times during a 24-hour period. In a few hours word came that no sewing kits were available from the warehouse. I felt disappointed and withdrew to our supply tent where in my free time I organized the boxes on boxes of donated stuff that filled the space, so much stuff that we knew neither what we had nor where to find it. In the bottom of a huge box, filled with everything from sweatshirts to ibuprofen, I found a little hotel disposable sewing kit. When that young man returned, I sewed his button on his shirt.
Without having prayed to have what I needed to help the people I met, would I have recognized the masks, the rain, and the sewing kit as blessings from God? Probably not. Would I have found the sewing kit? I don’t know but since I did pray to have what I needed, I recognized those things for what they were, answers to prayer.