Last week I prayed. And I’m not talking about those “It-Would-Be-So-Great-If…” kind of prayers when you almost feel guilty about even bothering God with such a ridiculous request because you know that your life will go on –and be relatively unscathed– if it doesn’t happen. I’m talking about getting down on your knees by the side of the bed (the way my Irish grandmother taught me) style of praying. Elbows on the bed, hands clasped together, eyes closed.
I prayed this way –understanding that I had no other choice– for a family member who had been carrying a tremendous burden for more than seven years. Last week, before he had courageously chosen to finally accept help, I genuflected and shook with emotions: sadness, relief, fear, hope. I prayed to God (and my deceased relatives) in a firm tone: “Listen up…this HAS to happen.” While much more of a yogi than a church-goer, I can’t help but believe that when we throw ourselves selflessly and purely behind the convictions of our prayers, they are answered.
Imagine my surprise when at the end of my “prayer week” (also the day of another family member’s funeral), I saw a praying mantis, mixed in with all of the fall leaves on the ground, walking next to my car. Despite the fact that the praying mantis is Connecticut’s official state insect, I’ve never seen one before in my life. But I instantly knew what it was and I knew it meant something.
According to animal symbolism, the praying mantis symbolizes the need for peace and stillness in one’s life. Yet the mantis (which means “prophet” in Greek) is a walking contradiction: a fighter who prays. It’s both aggressive and calm, a predator and meditator. Could I identify with these characteristics? Perhaps. It was, once again, nature reminding me that it’s watching, listening, and answering my prayers.