Your prayer can be simple
May 16, 2017 / By Theresa Eggleston, UNY Young Adult
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Volume 9 Issue 2 of the Advocate, which focused on the UNY Conference quadrennial theme of "Together in Prayer."
“Now I need to fold my hands and kneel, right?” Her bright, eight-year old eyes looked up at me seeking approval for the next step. “You can pray however you feel most comfortable,” I told her. “Well then I want to pray with Teddy.” She grabbed her scruffy loved bear from her bunk and nestled on the cabin’s front porch to pray. Her prayer came out pure and simple, no more bad dreams, a fun week at camp, and bacon for breakfast. There was no fanfare or intricate detail in her chosen words; her prayer was pure words from her heart. With a deep sigh of relief, she toddled back to bed.
When I think about prayer, I think about that moment. I was counseling at camp for my second summer and prayer came forward in my life as something simple and pure. I remember telling my cabin later that week that it didn’t matter how you prayed, just as long as you did. God is always there, ready to hear your prayer. Recently, prayer’s simplicity in my life was lost. Allow me to elaborate:
Like many of my peers, I have found myself drowning in headlines, scrolling through Facebook news feeds, and shaking my head when I open Twitter. When I finally take a moment to breathe and set my phone down, my heart aches. Words fill my head; antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, hate, fear, and the list goes on. In these moments, prayer suddenly seems demanding. The ache in my heart screams that I must bring all supplications, all at once, before God. I begin thinking, crafting, and editing. I feel the need for a prayer that is eloquent, powerful, thought out, drafted, and placed before God. I am compelled to cite every article, every Facebook status, every Tweet as a resource in my prayer. Overwhelmed, I comb through and check every headline I’ve seen, every article I’ve read, and every conversation I’ve had. My heart races; I scribble my thoughts; I find points to back up my prayer; I bring facts and figures when suddenly I have lost all focus. I have fallen into a political, media- filled prayer. My heart is lost and I have compiled a research paper. This is where I have found myself this year. My heart aches. However, God, in all of God’s mercy, reigns me in.
“You can pray however you feel most comfortable,” the words I spoke several years ago come back to me. I am forced to ask myself, “What is prayer, if not my messy humanness contacting the divine?” I didn’t need a drafted essay; I didn’t need an article to back up my statement. I needed faith and simplicity, much like my eight-year-old camper. With the passion that once filled my check list of articles coupled with the simplicity of my young camper, I bring my prayer before God...
Suddenly there was no art, no fanfare, and there was no intricate detail with words or resources...there were simply words. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” My words, my statements, my human prayer may come out unclear, sporadic, and messy, but the Spirit has the ability, the agency, the compassion for my humanness, to turn my prayer into the song on my aching heart and God hears.
What is prayer, if not our humanity contacting the divine? Our prayer may not come out perfect, clean, or with resources, but when it comes from the depths of our hearts, the Holy Spirit translates our humanness and brings it before God. I am brought back to my campers words, “No more bad dreams,” she said, “a fun week at camp, and bacon for breakfast.” What is your simple, human prayer?