I stood in the snow in Nashville today. Holding my chai latte, I felt the cold on my cheeks as the flakes fell down from the sky. Face upturned – the clean, crisp air seemed to whisper in my heart, telling me to breathe deep and savor the moment. A thin place was found today in Nashville, Tennessee.
Prayer has never been easy for me, has never come naturally to my head. Well, at least prayer as it is most often defined. Sitting in silence in an uncomfortable chair, moderating my tone and volume to an inside voice, saying only the appropriate things that won’t offend those gathered with me. It has always felt stifling, boring, and soul draining rather than filling.
It takes moments like the one in Nashville to remind me of what prayer is supposed to be for me. It is wild and unexpected and follows no rules. It is loud and silent, angry and joyful, terrified and courageous. When Sunday prayers feel dry and disconnected, when I feel like I can’t pray one more time, I think back to my past and I remember: I Pray. I prayed when my loved ones died. Loud prayers full of swear words, tears, questions, doubts, and sorrow. Not a prayer that will make it into any Christian publishing book. I prayed when I found out my dear friends couldn’t have baby – a prayer of aching sorrow and cries of injustice and rage at God. I prayed on the day I got married. A prayer of joyful thanks and a depth of fear I have never before felt – words flowing forth that made no real sense but had to be said. I prayed the day I was ordained, when the weight of the role I was taking on seemed too big to bear. I prayed as I sat with my feet in the ocean, prayers of mercy and shame – confessions so big that they seemed like they could never be forgiven.
This is what I am learning: prayer is not a thing that we do, it is a part of who we are. Prayer is a conversation between my heart and God, it is the song my soul sings, with all its discordant notes. If you don’t enjoy sitting in a circle and sharing, in order, your prayers – that is okay, I don’t either. Sometimes prayer is as simple and as organic as biting into the perfect piece of watermelon on a hot day and giving thanks for all that has gone into its creation. Prayer is about waking up – about being present to the reality around us. Sometimes that is painful, other times it is beautiful, always it is hard work.
In her book An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “Prayer, according to Brother David, is waking up to the presence of God no matter where I am or what I am doing. When I am fully alert to whatever or whoever is right in front of me; when I am electrically aware of the tremendous gift of being alive; when I am able to give myself wholly to the moment I am in, then I am in prayer. Prayer is happening, and it is not necessarily something that I am doing. God is happening, and I am lucky enough to know that I am in The Midst.”
This is what I am learning to live into- prayer not as a thing to do but a way to live. May god help me as I go . . .
Published on January 17, 2018