Barbara Crafton once wrote that far too many of us believe that prayers are these tidy little narrative paragraphs, filled with impressive words and even more impressive petitions. Being intimidated by such a demand, many of us decide we don't pray or we spend exorbitant amounts of time listening to others tell us how we should pray. It's one of the top questions we get as priests: help us pray better, as if it's a competition and not something we do in every moment.
What if we allowed our concept of prayer to be a bigger, daresay, more inclusive act, even non-act? It is, you know.
Prayers are certainly those simple words uttered by children at the encouraging of their parents, and they are those childlike words uttered by adults when we are in the throes of turmoil and strife so that the only words we can speak are the ones we prayed as children. Prayer is that deep fear we keep buried within our soul so far away from words that we dare not speak of it, even to God and especially to ourselves. Prayer is that joy so overwhelming that we can only yell of it out loud at the top of our lungs to the whole of creation. Prayer is the excruciating strain of our muscles as we run that last mile, not sure we'll make it, but just...a...bit...more...and...done. Prayer is the sheer exhaustion of a long day, when we finally stumble into a soft bed in a safe home and sigh long and deep. Prayer is also the mother who has no bed for her children, but decides to rest, anyway, because tomorrow will come.
Prayers are the tears we cry when we can't reach for the words or are too scared to say them or are too amazed at what we have seen to disturb the moment with sound. Prayers sing in the shower and dance when no one watches and fall in the drops of sun over our faces in the first breaths of spring. Prayer is the belief that invites us to question and the questions that compel us to act. Laughter prays to God in sheer delight. Silence prays, too. Simply living and moving and standing and sitting prays. Wiggling toes in mud with a child and twirling hair on a first date prays. Prayer is our afternoon meeting is-he-still-talking boredom and our Friday night oh-great-it's-the-weekend excitement. Prayer is watching your neighbor water her flowers, the ones her husband planted before he died. Prayer is reading and believing and reading and doubting. Prayer is the taste of really good chocolate and the joy at loving your dog or cat or Jane Austen movie.
Prayer is every single moment of our creation. We ourselves are God's prayer. Our lives are our prayer.
So let us pray.