The Evolution of Prayer
When I was in 6th grade my small group leader at the time took me to Barnes and Noble and let me pick out my very first prayer journal. It was red and velvet and felt like the most important thing I owned at the time. She sat down with me over a cup of hot cocoa and explained that she felt I had lots of thoughts and maybe I could write them down as prayers. I started my prayer journal that day.
Throughout middle and high school, this practice continued to be important to me. It was my way of praying and processing my little adolescent thoughts and still to this day I think about how Jesus looked at me with pride even on little prayers having to do with the boy I liked or doing well at my dance performance.
In college, I had a bit of a theology and faith crisis and my prayer journal looked much different. I still wrote every day but it was more of a plea for help. I doubted a lot and questioned God. It was a mixture of lament and sometimes praise.
After I graduated college (and had yet another crisis), I wrote a lot less. I spent a lot of that first year still pleading with God but I mostly read contemplative and monastic writing. I read and learned about “the dark night of the soul” and really related to that. I felt that my faith was always in this place where I trusted in God and believed in who Jesus is but I felt almost nothing and had no idea if what I was doing or what I was praying meant anything.
Fast forward to today – I am a stay at home mom to a busy 2-year-old and my morning routine of coffee and prayer journaling is almost non-existent. When I first become a mom this was another crisis (seeing any patterns?). What had made up most of my faith life (praying, being alone, worshiping at church, having serious conversations with other adults- parent’s…am I right?!) was just not a reality anymore.
But slowly I started to learn what I truly believe prayer is – which is practicing the art noticing the presence of Jesus in the every day and acknowledging that presence. Praying for me right now means speaking sweetly to Eleanor when all I really want to do is yell at her because she peed for the 5th time all over the floor or threw her bowl of cereal. It’s saying throughout the day “Lord Jesus, you are here, help me live out your love today.” It’s serving my family and neighbors. It’s simply delighting in how the sunlight hits the leaves and being thankful in that moment. It’s more of a letting go.
I believe there are times for specific praying of course – like praying fervently for the brokenness of the world or for a loved one who is sick. For asking God for help when all seems lost or praising God. But I also think we must recognize prayer as a lifestyle and I’m thankful for way Jesus met me in each season of life to show me a little more of what that truly looks like.