It was mid-week when I encountered a member of the congregation on the church patio. She was there with her five-year old son who was bounding about the courtyard. His Mom and I began talking about something missions-committee related when he came and stood between us, looked up at his Mom and said, “I need you!” All of her attention shifted from me to him as she lowered herself down to his height and eye level. It was as if his words reached her heart and she became totally present with her son and for her son.
That experience taught me a lesson in prayer. Too often my prayers make use of persuasive language and words in an attempt to convince God to hear my request and turn the outcome of my life situation or that of someone I’m praying for to my liking. It is as if I’m not sure if God is listening or cares enough to grant my request, so I present it in the most polished and convincing terms I can. Such prayers originate more in my head than in my heart. What would it be like if I simply said to God, “I need you!” or “My friend needs you!”
It is not the amount of words I use in prayer or the combination of them that matters as much as my openness, honesty, and vulnerability with God.
I was recently reminded of this posture and approach to prayer, when a friend shared with me this opening line of an Irishman’s prayer,
“Here I am Lord . . . here I am with all my faults and failings; . . . here I am discouraged by insurmountable problems; . . . here I am having spoken words I cannot take back; . . . here I am thinking you must be disappointed in me; . . . here I am lacking confidence or self-assurance; . . . here I am weak in faith and empty of hope; . . . here I am because the ache in my heart will not go away; . . . Yet, here I am.”
Learning to pray is learning to be myself with God. Not presenting myself or my petition to God, but simply being present with God. It is as simple as saying, “I need you!”