Prayer… Merriam Webster defines it as “an address to God, an earnest request or wish, a set order of words used in praying.” None of these really gets to the heart of the matter for those of us faced with a desperate situation, a frightening diagnosis, unanswered questions, a tragic loss, an uncertain future, bewildering challenges that arise at a moment’s notice. In my ongoing search for a definition that feels more “true,” I’d like to share with you some of the discoveries I’ve made along the way.
Retired Methodist minister and author, Ted Loder, says that “prayer is always against the odds set by logic, science and reality, so prayer is also against the odds of our own skepticism.” I don’t know about you, but I’m rather relieved someone with his calling and life experience has dared to name those uninvited shadows of skepticism that sometimes flit around the edges of my prayers, just out of sight but there all the same. His words are a call to offer ourselves deep grace as we seek to put our best but insufficient words into prayers for others, the world, ourselves. The truth is that in prayer, we stand on the holy ground of Mystery and Love beyond our understanding, so we claim Paul’s words from Romans 8, “It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Our gracious Father hears us as treasured children.
Author Anne Lamott readily admits that she arrived at God’s door in the throes of addiction and dysfunction, and was stunned to feel herself not only heard, but welcomed by Love itself. She offers this, “Prayer means that in some unique way, we believe we’re invited into a relationship with Someone who hears us when we speak in silence.” I also love reading the words of writer and poet Kent Ira Groff and in one of his poems entitled “Tame Prayers,” he calls prayer “an explosion in the heart.” Now that’s a definition of prayer that really speaks to me, although I’m far from understanding it. I obviously need to go spend time with Someone who hears me when I speak in silence.
Prayer - No Words Necessary
Prayer is part of the process
by which grace
becomes operative in the world.
Prayer is simply a two-way conversation
between you and God.
God can handle honesty,
and prayer begins an honest conversation.
My belief is that when you’re telling the truth,
you’re close to God.
We can say anything to God.
It’s all prayer.
Prayer is learning to draw from
the well of Christ.
Kent Ira Groff
We cannot hide anything from God
without being false to ourselves.
Prayer is an act of love;
words are not needed.
Teresa of Avila
It is in opening ourselves to God in prayer
that we receive guidance toward
the next right thing to do.
May you be blessed in the holy names
of those who, without you knowing it,
help to carry and lighten your pain.
For at last I believe life itself is a prayer.
“Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking, I will hear,”
says the Lord
In the same way,
the Spirit helps us in our weakness,
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
with groanings too deep for words.
Let us then approach
the throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help us
in our time of need.