I started the month of August nose-deep in a memoir (Found by Micha Boyett) on learning how to pray amid the busy, the chaos, the to-do lists. A birthday present from my husband who understands my seeker soul. I found myself nodding my head with the writer as she learned to shed the guilt that has mixed in with her faith, embracing the idea that we don’t choose Jesus and we certainly don’t earn Him. I grasped onto her insights of the Benedictine Rule, which fascinates and excites me. And I smiled in recognition as she learned to weave prayer into her everyday moments of running errands and showering and cleaning up the kitchen.
Prayer has only ever worked for me this way. I’ve tried to regiment it, getting up before dawn to recite Psalms or setting a goal to read certain passages on certain mornings but it has never worked well. Prayer is too spontaneous to be molded into a to-do list. I don’t schedule conversations with my husband so I’ve stopped trying to force myself to do so with God. The notion that prayer is not a performance but an earnest, truthful talk with God and the idea that our everyday work is a form of prayer is something that speaks to every fiber of my being. Sometimes I pray without words, instead communicating my needs or awe with my eyes, my hands, or my breathing. God is outside the language of human beings. I only ever think I hear him when I am outside anyway.
I am encouraged when I remember that faith is not guilt. It is not the opposite of doubts and questions. It is not a single life-affirming moment of conversion but a gathering-home that takes place every new day. And so is prayer. Prayer is one spoken word that can hold a dictionary of meanings. It is listening as well as speaking. It is in the work we do and in our relationships with others. It is the inhale and the exhale.