I pray to God—my life a prayer—watching and waiting ’til morning (Psalm 130:5, MSG).
My life has been so very many prayers. My cradling of a new life, a prayer of joy. My weeping over someone I love fading from my grasp, a prayer of sorrow. My fidgeting, a prayer of anxiety. My eyelids drifting closed with sleep, a prayer of rest and peace. My pacing of hospital hallways, a prayer of desperation. I have prayed to God—my life, a prayer.
“Maybe you can write a new narrative for your life in this next season.” My counselor said those words last week, right before we stared at each other awkwardly for a stretch of time because we had run out of things to say. I glanced at my arm, words newly emblazoned there and on my heart. I thought, “Or maybe my life will be a new kind of prayer this year.”
I have not known what to do with prayer for a long time. There is something about praying in desperation for a miracle (and beckoning thousands to join you) that produces a special sort of trauma when that miracle never comes. There are so many questions— Does God hear? Does God care? Can God do something? If so, why am I still standing here with a broken heart and empty hands? People rarely ask these questions out loud—but I have to think others are asking them, even if only in the quiet of their hearts.
Most of the time, I don’t pray like I used to. I rarely (if ever) tell people I am praying for them. For me, I have found that uttering those words in the midst of someone else’s pain or crisis can feel like a pass, an easy escape from sitting down next to them in the trenches and saying, “Tell me more. Let me carry this searing pain with you.” I also feel like I too often longed for easy answers back then— victory over lament, healing over pain, control over mystery. I wanted a divine force to “fix it”…without having to get dirty, weep buckets of tears over someone else’s pain, or pick up a shovel to start digging a way out. I wanted to sit on the sidelines and watch the miracle unfold without having to do the work of becoming the miracle.
My life a prayer, though. This life—these days of rolling out of bed, texting friends to let them know I am thinking about them, walking and walking and walking while naming those I know to be hurting… These days of scooping up the expressive toddler with SOOO many feelings, buying coffee for someone who needs a pick-me-up—THIS life is my prayer. Sometimes it feels like a desperate plea for strength, for some kind of flash of hope in such a broken world. Sometimes it feels like a giggle at the antics of kids I love. Sometimes it is cooking for someone who needs nourishment (even though I don’t really cook—we don’t always pray well, after all). Sometimes it is weeping and writing letters to dear ones in the fight for some kind of life. Sometimes it is clinging to the hand of my dying dad, longing for another minute with his life blood still flowing through those veins (while also pleading for him to be free). Sometimes it is watching a movie and finding myself in the face on the other side of the screen. Sometimes it is doing the next right thing even when I just want to pull the covers over my head. I pray to God—my life a prayer.
You know what I find beautiful about this verse? It is so full circle. My life a prayer…my own prayers and the prayers of those who came before me. My life a prayer, a prayer that will surround and raise up and become those who follow me. I think about how my life is the prayer of my dad, who often held me on his lap and spoke truth over my heart. My life is the prayer of loved ones who still send packages and letters and text messages just to encourage me when my own prayer is one of weariness. My life is the prayer of so many who have taught me, challenged me, and spurred me on to pursue passions and dreams. They prayed to God— my life a prayer.
This year, I pray to God—my life a prayer. I choose to release the prayer of desperation I have been crying and living. For a season, anyway. And I live curious about what prayer my life will utter in this coming year. What about you? What prayer is your life telling? Are you fighting prayers of justice? Soaking up prayers of rest and renewal under the sun? Crying prayers of desperation? Maybe you, like me, have trouble praying like you used to… or even at all. I get it. Just know that even your walking, doing, breathing, helping, holding— it’s all a prayer to the Divine. And you are the prayers of those who came before you, and you are giving birth to the prayer that is those who will come after you. Whoever you are, wherever you are—together, rising up with the rest of humanity— we pray to God, our lives one hundred thousand different prayers. Amen and amen.