When I Can’t Pray That

The words spewed out of my mouth before I fully realized what I was saying.

I don’t think I can pray that.”

Objectively speaking, I could. I could force my lips to form the words, my pen to write the sentences, my brain to think the thoughts to form a prayer.

But I don’t know that I could truly mean it. Do prayers still count if you don’t mean the words you’re saying? If you pray for something because you know that’s what you’re supposed to, but don’t know that you really want it to be true?

Jesus said to love our enemies. If we truly care about those we love, we pray for them. And so, to love my enemies, it follows suit that I should pray for them. “Enemies” might be strong terminology; anyone who has hurt me or those I love, or who I happen to not like very much that day, or any number of rather invalid reasons…I may not feel like I am able to pray for them.

Praying isn’t about feeling like I want to pray though. It’s a practice, an exercise, a ritual to be done when I feel it and when I don’t–perhaps especially when I don’t.

There is no other way to do something than to simply begin. So when I can’t pray that, I must start somewhere. Praying to be able to pray. It feels foolish, to not pray for that specific something, but to pray to be able to pray for it.

But it is, I imagine, very difficult to dislike someone for whom you are praying good–and meaning it. So by praying to be able to pray, perhaps I will find not only that I am able to mean the words, but to care for the person I was not able to before.

I do not expect this to happen in a day, a week, or maybe even a few months.

This, like the rest of me, is a work in progress.

Praying to be able to pray.

Til next time…


p.s. Have you ever had a prayer you felt you couldn’t pray?


A Prayer for Guidance

A couple summers ago I found a book in a thrift store.

It had a red cover, with a metallic gold cross embossed on it. In small gold print, the binding read, The Book of Common Prayer. Though I had heard of it in passing, not having grown up in a church tradition that uses it, I wasn’t familiar with it.

So I bought it.

For several months it sat on my nightstand, where it was kept company by a stack of Bibles and devotional books, likely remaining unopened since my initial skim through it in the thrift store.

That fall I read Girl Meets GodLauren Winner’s memoir of her journey from Judaism to Christianity. In it she often writes of her experiences with The Book of Common Prayer, and it prompted me to open mine.

In the back, in a section simply titled “Prayers,” I found this one:

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~Prayer for Guidance, The Book of Common Prayer

I wrote it in pink ink, on paper bordered by multicolored dots, and added it to the stack on my nightstand.

In the past year, as my college graduation approached, arrived, and went, the words of this prayer seemed just what I wanted to say but couldn’t precisely articulate. I have prayed it over resumes and through job interviews, for friends and family, over small decisions and life-changing ones.

I find the acknowledgement of our doubts and uncertainties a helpful one. To pretend they don’t exist helps no one. Instead, this prayer acknowledges the unknown, and prays for guidance through it. Guidance from the God who is God over uncertainty, over our doubts, over the things we do not and cannot know. The God who listens, and the God who remains.

As 2013 begins, there are unknowns I have become accustomed to, as well as new ones. Undoubtedly I will pray this same prayer again and again, in familiar ways and ones yet unseen. There will be times when I have to make a decision when I have not heard nor felt a clear-cut answer from God, and this will be my prayer and my trust.

I think that’s ultimately what faith is about: not always feeling clear answers, but trusting that God is orchestrating the path when I can’t see where my foot will land next. Trusting that his ways are higher than mine, and his guidance will land me where I’m supposed to be.

Til next time…