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TV Snapshots: One of the best prayers I've ever heard

Please God, I don’t know where I am. I’m completely lost. I know now you answer prayers. So, I’m asking . . . please help me find my way home. Thank you. Amen.

This is a prayer said by Sam Tyler at the end of the “Things to Do in New York When You Think You’re Dead” episode of Life on Mars, a new series on ABC about a present-day cop who gets hit by car and wakes up in 1973. He doesn’t know why he’s there, if it’s a real experience or all in his head. But as he goes through the days, he not only finds clues to his predicament but also healing for past wounds, particularly in his father’s abandonment of him as a child—of which he takes a step forward in this episode (which you can watch online here).

Sam utters this prayer after a series of encounters that cause him to reconsider his beliefs about God. Early on, during an investigation into a young girl’s death, he encounters a Catholic priest who responds incredulously to Sam’s off-the-cuff remark urging the priest to consider how “your God” would want justice. The priest looks at him and says, “My God? Not your God?” We discover later that Sam turned away from God when he didn’t answer his childhood prayers to say good-bye to his father. But by the end, the episode has wonderfully knit together a chance for Sam to encounter and work with the younger version of the man who would become like a father to him in the future, Fletcher Bellow. We discover this is a particularly powerful and precious gift to Sam, as at the end of the episode he discovers that Bellow has apparently died in 2008. It becomes a unique and wonderful way to say goodbye to the man who was, in essence, more a father to him than his biological one. It is a breath-taking answer to his prayer—not the one he expected, but one that was much more and richer than he could have dreamed.

That’s the way God works—and when we encounter or are reminded of that, it restores our faith and trust in his power and goodness. Even in the darkness.

A lot of times, when we are in darkness—be it from hardships of life to meanness of others to personal failure—we feel like we are in a different world, like we’ve been transplanted to a place where nothing makes a lot of sense. Like we are lost. Our prayer at points like that—whether we’ve been walking with God for years or this is our first cry out to him—is a simple one: Father, I am so lost. Show me the way the home.

And, as a future version of the priest says during Bellow's funeral (while looking right at Sam who's invisible to everyone else): We are not alone in our journey. “Never alone. Never alone.” Indeed, God is closer than the air we breathe.

This episode was laced with more God-talk, including an encounter with a homeless man of angelic proportions and other comments and conversations about faith and God. One in particular stands out, one that nudges Sam even closer to his own prayer. It turns out that the man suspected of killing the girl actually tried to help her. As Sam rides with the man—whose name is Angel—to his freedom, Angel tells Sam:
Angel: It’s a miracle. I was walking around thinking I was dead this whole time.

Sam: I know what you mean.

Angel: You’re lost, Sam. When I was lost I prayed. And God sent me you. It sounds silly, but prayers do get answered.
Sam doesn't dismiss Angel's comments but, by the end of the episode, embraces them. One of the things I’ve started to love about this series is that Sam is teachable. Perhaps that’s because he is in a place where his old life is gone. Maybe it’s because he’s at the end of his rope and has to be able to be open to new possibilities. Whatever the case, I appreciate it because it reminds me of the wonder available to us if we’d just open our eyes and look.

In a series that has explored answers to Sam's predicament in everything from physics to Eastern philosophies and religion, I deeply appreciate this episode. Well done, folks.

(Images: ABC) miscctgy