praying when you can't find your prayer beads or have taken the word "quiet time" out of your vocabulary

prayer beadsi 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.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life and online. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

10 Comments

  • Prayer is breathing. That’s my take, anyhow. I used to spend the hours praying the specific prayers with specific words as charismatic tradition suggests. But it never *did* anything…except make me feel like I needed to pray more and better…now it’s more like being in perpetual conversation. The systems and formulas don’t work for me…it has to be like breathing.

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  • Kathy, it does make us feel alive. I used to think that to hear God’s voice it had to be something outside myself. But, more recently, I’ve realized that most of the time, God speaks within me, in my intuition. It’s given me a whole new perspective on prayer. I’m not the only one talking and it’s certainly not some formal affair. It is amazingly intimate, connected and ongoing.

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  • amy, yeah, it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it. we certainly don’t need a formula or beads or specific things to make it happen. i love that thought..it’s already there….

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  • I like what Amy said about intuition. That was a hard lesson for me…but when I discovered that the Spirit IS my intuition, life got easier.

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  • my beads, somehow, have helped me to pray more intentionally, than i have been. kinda help me to focus on specific things that need prayer. but my greatest prayers are the conversations i have with God as the Holy Spirit brings to mind my friends. their hearts. their hurts and needs.. their hopes and dreams. their love for me and for God. somehow, prayers has changed into a joy and an honor, instead of a commandment and a chore.

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  • This was so poignant. It is one of the things that sort of went out the window in my own faith walk when I realized that it.was.all.a.farce – the “quiet time” ritual, the rote prayer. It was all an act and who was I fooling. I love it – and will probably your words down somewhere –
    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.
    Maybe I’ll write down that whole dang paragraph. My eyes are welling with tears at the way you articulated this – and how I know what you mean.
    I think the bead thing is beautiful.

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  • erin, it is so interesting, though, how the “intuition” word is taboo in many circles.

    mike, i liked the focus it gave, i think it was good for many on all kinds of levels.

    jewlsntexas, thanks for stopping by! yeah i’m pretty sure our spiritual journey was never supposed to be an act, was it? that is what all kinds of formulas and rigidity and blindly believing that what people tell us must be “the way” creates–an act. i am glad you have found some freedom from this. how’d you hear about this blog? glad you shared and found a little encouragement, too!

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  • Hey Kathy 🙂
    I actually followed a rabbit trail here – I think from the Emerging Women blog – and I am so glad. This morning my 14 yo daughter and I were having a discussion that led me back here – and I read her this whole post. It touched us both so much – me again.
    It is so good to know you are not alone –

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  • jewlsntexas – fun! nice to meet you and i’ll have to check out your blog, too! it is fun to make new friends in the blog-o-sphere. i have learned a lot and found a lot of hope.

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