"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything ... present your requests to God."
-- Philippians 4:6
Once in a while my twin vocations -- music and writing -- collide head-on. Normally extra services at my church and heightened involvement in other events don't coincide with an increase in writing projects. But a couple nights ago I nearly had a panic attack wondering how my schedule and required time for rest could also coincide.
That's when I remembered the "multiplier prayer," and how it became part of my life.
No one told me 40 years ago that, in exchange for the gift of motherhood, you give up sleep. Oh, I'd heard about the two-o'clock feeding, a task my husband and I agreed to share, but our first child was either ravenously hungry all night long or preferred his sleep during the day. The minimal, middle-of-the-night feeding I had envisioned bore little resemblance to what happened after this bundle of insomniac joy arrived.
During my sleep-deprived stupor I wasn't always on top of things, like doing the laundry, stocking the refrigerator or, as I discovered during one nightly crying episode, keeping a supply of baby formula on hand.
These were not the days of 24-hour supermarkets or ready-to-use formula. The 30-minute formula-making process went something like this: Boil the water, cool the water to lukewarm, and add corn syrup and evaporated milk while sterilizing bottles and assuring my screaming child that his 2, 3 or 4 a.m. food was on the way.
I should have known better, but that night I thought I had discovered a way to cut the time in half. It was the middle of winter and we lived in northern Maine. So why not speed the cooling process by setting the boiled water outside in the snow?
My idea might have worked -- if I hadn't used a glass jar. Minutes later when I stepped outside to retrieve my lukewarm water I found nothing but an empty two-piece jar. As anyone who paid attention in science class knows, when you subject glass to extreme temperature changes, it breaks.
I'm not sure who cried louder after that: the hungry child or his unscientific mom.
But that night, as I began the boiling process again, I would learn yet another lesson. Naturally I was worried about my child, but I was also concerned for myself. It was Saturday night and I was supposed to teach Sunday school and play the organ in church the next day. How would I have the strength to do that? Eight hours of sleep would have been heavenly, and I'd have settled for four, but at this point we were down to two.
As I frantically prayed for strength to get through the night and prepare for the next day, I remembered the story about Jesus feeding 5,000 people with nothing more than a little boy's lunch (Matthew 14:15-21), and I wondered: If Jesus could multiply a few pieces of bread and a couple of fish so it would feed that many people, couldn't he do the same for me with sleep? If, as the Bible declares, "a day in the Lord is as a thousand years" (II Peter 3:8), couldn't that same Lord multiply the time I did sleep to compensate for the hours I lost?
He did -- then, last week and whenever I've remembered to pray the "multiplier prayer" all the years in between. The idea multiplies, too. If Jesus could expand a little boy's lunch to feed a crowd and increase the benefits of limited sleep, think what he can do with money, the life span of a car, or time to accomplish the things we are required to do.
As if in benediction to my recent, frantic pace, one day last week I was surprised that with no caffeine or time for a quick, midday nap I didn't feel tired. The multiplier prayer, I'm happy to report, still works.
A word of caution, however. I don't believe God wants us to abuse our bodies, or that he will indiscriminately grant our wishes whenever we ask for food or longer days. There are other food miracles in the Bible, but no evidence that the people who shared the little boy's lunch came back later for another meal. Miracles are reserved for above-normal needs, even if they are caused by poor planning or stupidity.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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