praying the mystery

The other day I was having a conversation about prayer with a friend.
Sort of.
Mainly it was a series of texts back and forth because even though I appear pretty open and honest in this space.
In real life, when I talk about things close to my heart I get pretty bad at it.
I look at my shoes. I change the subject. I start to mumble and talk a little nonsense.

At one point she asked me to just send her the link.
Because in 504 blog posts, there is probably one out there.
And I had to admit, that there is no link. Because there is no post.
The closest one I could find was on yoga. And I wasn't going to send her a link about my downward dog.
And I hated to have to admit that I am much more likely to talk about my favorite songs or foods or friends or even doubt than one of the main spiritual discplines.
And not because I don't think it is important or vital but because I am really really bad at it.
I've read books on it. I have things I believe firmly about it. I have things that I hope about it. I have my share of doubts. And sometimes I fast just so I will remember to actually do it at all. More often than not, I'd rather lick the bottom of someone's shoe than pray outloud. I've been doing it poorly for years, even though there are plenty of people out their who say their is not such thing as a bad prayer. They haven't seen me pray. Which really means fall asleep or get distracted or just forget entirely and worst of all occasionally bargain or beg.  I mainly just do all the talking and not so much listening. And usually it is all pretty selfish requests or me telling God what I think He should do.
Or to quote a little Anne Lammott:
"I worry that Jesus drinks himself to sleep when he hears me talk like this."

When anyone ever wants to talk about prayer one thing I read always stands out in my head. Not the popular book on it by Richard Foster, or any St. Augustine or even the latest one by Shane Claiborne. But this silly little poem that I'm pretty sure was written just for me. (ok not really, because this guy is a pretty big time author and speaker but it still totally feels like he is talking about me). And this one page is the whole reason I bought the entire book (although there is more good stuff in it)...  "A Terrible Prayer" by Micheal Yaconelli from the book Ragamuffin Prayers

I have always been a terrible prayer.
I forget.
My mind wonders.
I fall asleep.
I don't pray enough.
I don't understand what prayer is.
Or what prayer does.

If prayer were school.....
I would flunk praying.

but prayer isn't school.
it is mystery.

Maybe the mystery is...
Jesus loves terrible prayers.
When I can't think of anything to say. He says what I can't say.
When I talk too much. He cherishes my too-many words.
When I fall asleep. He holds me in His lap and caresses my weary soul.
When I am overwhelmed with guilt at my inconsistant, inadequate praying
He whispers, "Your name is always on my lips."

I am filled with grattitude. My soul overflows with thankfulness and I....I......find myself saying over and over again, "Thank You!"
Praying the Mystery.
And thankfully my kids are a little better at it than me.
Owen prays for his friends, for the dog, for a loose tooth (even though he doesn't have one yet) and for another pillow pet. And Tess esepcially likes the part where we hold hands and pray before dinner. She wants to do it again and again. One hand in mine, the other shoving chicken nuggets in her mouth. And more confession, we don't do that every night. Or sometimes even every other night. And sometimes my kids fall asleep watching cartoons rather than me remembering to help them say their prayers and read a story while tucking them dutifully into bed. But mysteries don't have to be said properly.  Like, around the table, snuggly in our beds, or on our knees. They can just be whispered quitely while carrying those limp sleeping babes to their own beds while turning off the TV.
and because I can't help it a little more Anne Lammott....
"....when you pray, you are not starting the conversation from scratch, just remembering to plug back into a conversation that's always in progress."


Margie said...

Love the title. Am there. Struggle with this. Never could finish Philip Yancey's book on the subject. But my little devotional "Jesus Calling" is helping me remember to think about Jesus during the day. And when I think about Him, I talk to Him.

The quotes you included by Anne Lamott are really, really great.

Kate said...

Amen. Michelle, you just made me thankful I'm not alone in this! I feel like a TERRIBLE pray-er! This was uplifting and inspiring. Thank you, friend!

samskat said...

Ditto. Pretty much everything you said. Also, I think that poem might have been written for both of us. ;)