i am not a big pray-er in the traditional sense. i don’t spend specific time every day dedicated to prayer. i don’t call on God on behalf of people in a specific way using certain words. i don’t have a “quiet time” at the same time, in the same way, in the same place like i used to years ago when i was a good Christian rule-follower. i don’t look very faithful in my “prayer life” according to a lot of standards. but i think that is because the religiosity of church stuff has made prayer some kind of weird enigma separated from just conversation between us and God. (ps: i think worship is the same way. we think it’s just when someone has a guitar & there’s a power point up on the screen with the words on it).
whenever i think about someone, i am praying. whenever someone is on my heart and i wish good things for them or am concerned for them, i am praying. whenever i am lamenting over my life and how hard is sometimes feels, i am praying. whenever i notice something beautiful and am thankful for it, i am praying. whenever i am being convicted in my heart about something i just did that was stupid and asking God for forgiveness, i am praying. when some liturgical prayer is shared and it stirs something inside me, i am praying. when i’m laughing out loud in my car at a really funny thing that made me think of God & this crazy life i’m living, i’m praying.
it’s just my heart and God somehow mysteriously connected. sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s not. and i don’t feel too guilty about it anymore. i hate when spiritual words become more important than they need to be. i hate how they limit God and make us feel dumb and unspiritual, like somehow because we are not doing it a certain way we aren’t experiencing it.
at the same time, i really do love the idea of intentionality in my spiritual journey in ways that work for us (not necessarily what works for others). we are all made different. we all connect with people differently. we all connect with God differently. and some things possibly don’t look disciplined or spiritual enough in the eyes of others but who cares? it’s my relationship with God that i need to be engaged in, not someone elses.
i alternate between reading people magazine, my bible, and anything by brennan manning or henri nouwen while i blow dry my hair. i drink my coffee, soak in some good stuff. it sounds kinds of stupid but that is just a time where i am still and actually enjoy the time to read something and reflect. i connect with God in those moments (well the people magazine days are maybe kind of a bye).
recently at our house of refuge we created prayer beads. you can read more about it here. i really appreciated the conversation and the ways that we went about the whole process. i don’t feel guilty that sometimes i just can’t find my beads (i am the same way with my keys and wallet all the time, i can’t tell you the time i waste in a given week looking for one or both of them!). but i am glad i made them because it has made me a little more likely to turn my heart toward God in an intentional way each day. i made mine simple so that even if i didn’t have them in my hand i’d be able to remember.
here’s what my prayers are, starting with the big pink bead by the cross (i know the picture above isn’t very clear, sorry, i just don’t have the time to figure it out and the only ones who probably care are me and jenny. hahaha!)
big pink one-psalm 46:10 be still and know that i am God.
dove – this for peace. i want to be a more peaceful person, feel peace in the moment.
big red round one – this is for help with my anger (red, exposive, big). i can just get so pissed off at the kids and hurt them with my words. i need God’s help for this.
red heart one – LOVE. God, help me be a better giver and receiver of love. pass on love. let love in.
cross – this is because shame is my middle name. it’s the place i go when anything goes wrong. Jesus, by his work on the cross, came to take away my sin & shame. there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and this is always hard for me to accept in my daily life so this is a reminder.
fish – i am talking a literal fish here, not the christian fish kind that people put on their cars. i chose this because i want God’s help to keep moving, going somewhere new, traveling upstream. fish don’t stay still, they are always moving. i want to be a person who keeps moving even when it’s hard and scary and risky.
the small beads at the very end – are just current prayers, people who are on my heart, little things that i may want to think of and lift up to God in a given day.
do i need these to pray? no. does it matter if i competely forget to do this for days a time or maybe forever? no. does it make me somehow more spiritual than the next person? no. does it get me any extra points with God? no. does it help me think about ways i want God’s spirit to come into my life a little more? yes.
and i think that’s the big idea about prayer–it’s just a conversation, an openness, an invitation, a dialogue, a connection. it’s about whatever works.