It can be so many things, and take so many forms; a dialogue, a monologue, or silence; laughter, or weeping, or both; it can show up angry, or indignant, frustrated, or thankful, even hopeless; but overall, in whatever form it takes, I think prayer is our ode to dependance. It is a lifelong song that we sing to Him, with as many verses as we have days, one after another in our sweet and desperate and joyful and utterly needful dependance upon the living God.
When I first became a Christian, I used to tell God that I didn’t know how to pray, and how I wished He would let me follow holier people around so I could just listen in and learn. Instead, He gave me something better; Himself. He taught me to walk before Him, so that whatever else prayer has been for me, it has been a running dialogue of my life lived under His watchful eye. Although I desperately wished earlier in my faith that I could learn the “right” way to pray, I am so thankful for that wish denied, because I don’t think I would’ve had the opportunity to develop what is now one of the most enjoyable parts of my life.
When I was younger and single, I talked to Him about all the hopes and dreams I had for the “someday,” or about random crushes I had, asking for His lead and trying to discern and heed His voice. When I was about to walk down the aisle years later, I told Him I was afraid, and He reassured me of His presence. When I was pregnant and riddled with perinatal anxiety, I could not hear His voice, but I learned to trust His presence in the silence; that too, was prayer. When infancy overran my “quiet time,” He taught me to pray through the watches of the night; that dishes prayers and sleepless prayers and adoring a newborn prayers all “counted” too. Through hundreds of sleepless nights of young children and worries, He kept me; praying to sleep, crying with night wakes, and somehow, hopeful with new mercies in the morning. When toddlers turned to tweens and new lessons and cares came, He taught me to trust, and to laugh without fear, and how that is prayer too. When disagreements with loved ones turn to arguments, or anger that leaves me too ashamed to speak has taken over, I can still approach His throne – boldly, even – to find grace in my hour of need. This, too, is prayer.
When I find some natural beauty, or delight in the first blooming lilac of Spring, marveling that He made this scent from this flower this year just as He has for the last immemorial number of Springs, this, too, is prayer. When I take my walks through the neighborhood park, I ask if I can keep company with Him while I amble; He was already there, and He will always be here, but that awareness of Him while I walk, even if it’s in silence; that too is prayer. This past year I learned about praying through the Psalms, how the Benedictine communities still practice this form of prayer by reciting all 150 Psalms over the course of a week, praying their lives through the reading of the psalter; I hunger for this, knowing this too, is prayer. When I wake now with the dawn, stealing a few precious hours of solitude with the Lord before the house rises and the day presents its needs, I feel it to be my favorite hours of prayer yet. I ask Him, still, to teach me how to pray; I believe He will teach me a thousand ways more.
Prayer is our lifelong ode of dependance upon the One who made us, keeps us, and will bring us all the way home to Himself. It is a daily liturgy of our hearts and lips and knees, of our laughter and our tears and our gratitude and our intercession. It is everything unspoken in silence between us and our first Love, our ultimate consolation and comfort, our very present help in time of need. It is above all a gift from our heavenly Father, allowing us to commune with the One who lives in unapproachable majesty, and yet bends near to hear our cries. If you find yourself in your prayer journey not knowing where to begin, take heart. Our silence, our not-knowing – these are all their own forms of prayer. “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out” (Isa 42:3) – He knows, and it is His love that gives us even the desire and ability to pray. Ask Him, and He will teach you, as He has taught His untold number of saints from the beginning of time itself. Thanks be to God, for his glorious grace.
Author: Chelsea Bucci