Oh…to be a “prayer warrior.” I hear about these types of people all the time. These people with prayer lists and journals, who can start and end a prayer with such grace, who speak confidently and with conviction.
I will be the first to admit that I am not one of these people. I will even go so far as to say that I am really bad at praying (maybe part of my perfectionistic nature gives me reason to even think there is such a thing as to be “bad” at praying, but I digress). I can never sit still long enough to be quiet and listen to someone pray, I have a hard time keeping my eyes closed for so long and being in my own darkness, and I have a hundred things running through my mind at any point in time that listening to a prayer from start to finish seems impossible. I’ve always wondered if there was some secret formula to praying that I was missing. How do I balance my helps, thanks, and wows (as is the title of a book by Anne Lamott that I got to help me out and still have not read)? Am I asking for too much? Am I asking God for things in the “right” way?
I remember praying with Erinn and Joanna on one of my first days at The Dale. We sat beside each other on a Monday morning, about to finish our check-in and head over to our Monday community meal. Erinn asked if we could pray (we?!). My mind started to race and I’m sure my palms started to sweat. It got quiet. Joanna started to pray (beautifully, as she often does). It was eloquent and kind hearted, well balanced and graceful. Then, my worst thought came true. She ended in God’s name, but didn’t say Amen. I knew we would have to continue. Sure enough, Erinn started to pray and much like Joanna’s prayer, her’s was honest and sweet. She was grateful, and also unafraid to ask her Father for what we needed for the day. How would I follow up? I’m pretty sure when my turn came I prayed the shortest prayer I could, a classic prayer that I usually say in my head – one for peace and a friend, especially on my first big day.
Now that I have a couple months under my belt at The Dale, I find it safe to say that I’m still not comfortable with prayer. But I am learning. I am learning that this unsureness I’ve had about praying all my life is an insecurity I hold in my own heart. I am learning that God gifts people in many ways – that some people have prayers that can move mountains, and some are quietly strong. I am learning that there are many types of prayers – long and short, made-up, and written many years ago (side note: I went to a conference recently and attended a lesson on ancient prayers. Did it ever help me out to know that people have written prayers already that you can read for the day!). I am learning that my words don’t always have to make sense, and that this is okay even when I am praying out loud and people are listening. I am learning that it is okay to just say, “Amen” some days after Erinn and Jo pray (and I am grateful for their great examples to me of what honest, brave, and grateful prayer is).
I am practicing talking to God. I am practicing praying out loud, even when I am nervous to speak in front of others. I am practicing being thankful to Him for answering our prayers, and I am in awe that He always does in His own way. And I am practicing being less insecure about praying – with my colleges and friends at work who I trust, with my community who I care for and who care for me, with my boyfriend at the dinner table, and with myself whenever I feel like I need to talk to God on my own. These things take time, and I am grateful that God is still there listening to me fumble day after day.
“O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console:
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love:
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to
eternal life. Amen”
– attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi