My co-worker and I go on prayer walks nearly every day. We have a theme to our days. They are a form for us to launch into our dialogue. Mondays are gratitude. Tuesdays are patience. Wednesdays, love. Thursdays, strength. Fridays, joy. Lately, we forget what the theme is and just pray about what’s on our minds. The prayer form is giving way to free prayer, as it sometimes should. But the forms started the conversation.
There are many prayer forms. The dinner time ritual. The Lord’s Prayer. The little child by the bedside praying before he or she sleeps. If I came from a more liturgical background, I could list more. The forms guide us with their words, but they aren’t prayers by simple repetition. They’re prayers by our connection to the words or ideas or thoughts.
I like to think of prayer forms as a prompt. In 4th grade I would get a little blue book with lined paper inside. I think it was somehow part of an aptitude test, but the little blue book was one of possibility. It’s blank pages were forms for creativity. The writing prompt was given. And I would write. And write. So quickly that my hand would hurt, like I was desperate to get the words on the page.
I like prompts. They give me direction, guide me to thought, feeling, creativity. They guide me towards saying something, towards speaking truth.
I have this book I love. It’s 10,000 Questions for Getting to know Anyone and Everyone. It’s filled with prompts for conversation. During the summer Ryan and I got back together for the last time, we’d sneak away from the busyness of camp, grab some coffee and sit and ask each other questions from the book. The point was conversation. The point was getting to know each other all over again. The point was listening. The product was intimacy, delved into through honesty. We laid a conversational foundation for our relationship.
I’m not good about talking to God. Prayer is something I love. It’s something I yearn for. It’s something I appreciate. It’s something I know I need. But it’s something that I often overlook. I’m too busy. I have nothing to say. I’m too tired.
When prayer seems impossible, I think about prompts. But the best “prompt” I have is thinking about what my marriage would be like if I talked to Ryan like I talk to God. Honestly, my marriage would be in trouble. Relationships need more communication than I give God.
Ryan and I have a conversational foundation. I tell him when I worried, when I’m excited. I still talk to him when I feel busy and rundown. I tell him when I’m angry, even at him. I ask his forgiveness. I listen. I’m ok if we don’t have something riveting to say to each other. We keep engaging anyway. I tell him about people I’ve interacted with that day, the ways I’ve failed them or the things I want for them. I thank him for being who he is and doing the things he’s done for me. I even just sit in his presence and rest, knowing there’s so much he understands without me saying anything. And we fail a lot. But we just keep trying.
That’s all prayer is. That’s what God wants – for me to talk, even if I don’t want to, for me to tell him when I’m angry at him, for me to ask forgiveness, for me to listen, for me to pray for the people I love, for me to thank him, for me to grow in relationship with him. And for me to just keep trying.
All relationships are started and sustained through conversation. It’s time to talk.