I’ve got a bit of a confession…I’m not very good at praying.
As a practicing Christian, involved in ministry and a blogger who finishes a blog detailing who I pray for as I scribble down each word, this particular confession leaves me somewhat red faced and filled with shame. As much as I’d like it to be different, the fact of the matter and the truth remains that I’m not very good when it comes to praying.
Just because I struggle doesn’t mean I don’t try, I tell people all the time that I will pray for them. But If I’ve said that I would pray for you, for a situation, for anything while the intention was definitely there, you can pretty much guarantee that I will have possibly forgotten, maybe got distracted and definitely got tongue tied and lost for words. When it comes to praying strangely, for someone so in love with words, I struggle to form sentences to convey what I need to to the Big man.
In short, while my purpose is pure in practice my prayers are pretty pants.
When I was little we used to sing a song at Sunday school that went, “Prayer is like a telephone, for us to talk to Jesus, prayer is like a telephone for us to talk to God. Pick it up and use it everyday.” Now I know what you’re thinking, what a tune! At the age of 8 that was my jam and I happily sang those words (and did the actions) for years and years. Then at some point during my teenage years I had the epiphany that when it comes to praying I don’t rank amongst the world’s best. Prayer may be like a telephone but I don’t have good reception and, as those of you read one of my last blogs will know, I have a fear of the phone!
In Matthew’s gospel Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, he gives them the words of the Lord’s Prayer and tells them that is how they should pray. As he does this he tells them not to be like the hypocrites who pray loudly and proudly, making sure everyone can hear them- boasting through prayer. And in Luke’s gospel Jesus tells a story of a Pharisee and a tax collector coming to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prays aloud, making sure everyone can hear what he says while the tax collector comes to pray humbly and almost silent, barely daring to lift his face to heaven. Jesus points out that this man is the one who is right with God and praying for the right reasons.
These stories give me a bit of hope. They give me hope that those of us who don’t really know what to say to God or how to intercede for people aren’t doing everything wrong. They give me hope that an honest heart wanting to communicate with God is more important than a beautifully crafted prayer with perfect syntax. If you can and want to pray those prayers then I will happily shout amen with you (at appropriate times), but please don’t take my silent, whispered prayers as unbelief or not wanting to pray… Our hearts are in the same place, I promise.
To me, I think that’s what prayer is properly about… our hearts. It’s our hearts longing to connect, convey and communicate with God’s heart; sometimes with words but more often than not, silently with emotions. In Romans 8, Paul tells us that the spirit helps us in our inability to pray. He says that when we are lost for words the sprit intercedes for us, with feelings too deep for words.
Sometimes the prayers that really matter don’t need words.
If we ever needed evidence that we are living in a broken world then all we need to do is switch on the telly or open a paper; news on the whole generally isn’t good, but at the moment things are pretty awful aren’t they? The world is hurting, countries are hurting, people are hurting and I don’t know about you, but when I’m confronted by so much pain I find myself completely lost for words. Over the last few weeks the lyrics of Lou Fellingham’s ‘God of Mercy’ have kept coming back to me, “Sometimes I don’t what to ask for, sometimes I don’t know what to say”. There are no words that seem enough, no phrases that seem appropriate to try and heal a broken world and stop the hurting and so, as ever, my prayers falter into one word utterances or simply complete silence.
But my heart, my heart is longing to convey the pain I see in the world to the heart of the Father and intercede for those searching for love, peace and healing.
As I write this friends are facing illness, loneliness, grief, brokenness and I’m at a loss to know what to say or how to say it. As I write this my Twitter feed is full of chunks of news to which I have no response, but while I may not be able to “pray” per se, my heart is breaking as I believe God’s is. And in my silence, in my inability to pray I know that the spirit is interceding on behalf of my broken heart.
Tonight, in my way, I pray for this broken, hurting world and broken, hurting friends. But tonight I also pray for those who struggle to pray, for those lost for words or worried that God doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. I pray that your heart would say everything you can’t put into words, that your heart would break for what breaks God’s and that your heart would connect with God, reassuring you of his care and understanding.
Tonight I wonder if you need to join me in praying a broken hearted utterance: Heal. Why? When? Please. Stop. Mercy. Help. Sorry. Amen.