I am frequently unsettled these days and sometimes even in a state of alarm. Like all of us, I have never lived through a pandemic, a racial reckoning, and a national election this contentious. Sometimes I don’t know how to even make basic decisions because my life is so filled with uncertainty. And the things I am certain about don’t come as easily as they normally would.
If you too find yourself lost in the swirl of news, possibilities, and worries, I want to commend prayer. Every single thing that occupies your mind is a matter of prayer. There isn’t a thing happening today, in your workplace, in the group text between your family members, in your thoughts and emotions, that isn’t a matter for prayer. When I am asked my opinion or need to respond to some situation, I am practicing saying, “I’ll have to pray about it.” I know that it might sound ridiculously spiritual but I think that limiting yourself by saying, “I’ll have to pray about it,” even if you it is just saying to yourself, is the reminder that you are not God and shouldn’t have an answer to everything.
Commit yourself to simply sharing your honest thoughts and emotions with God before you offer them to the world. In her book on prayer Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers Anne Lamott writes, ‘“My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. If you say to God, “I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don’t like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You,” that might be the most honest thing you’ve ever said.”’ God is not surprised by the swells of fear, anger, and anxiety that flood your mind. Just invite him into the storm and see how he speaks peace.
In fact you don’t even have to have words for your prayers in order to offer them to God. I take comfort in the Paul’s letter the the church in Rome when he writes:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
Do not formulate well-worded prayers; they are not necessary. When we pray God searches our hearts and hears our honest, unformed thoughts. The Holy Spirit meets us in our confusion and desperate need of guidance and prays through us and for us. How incomprehensibly wonderful that we are assured that God meets us in our distress and weakness!
Today, before you speak or plan or worry say to yourself, “I’ll have to pray about it.” The Holy Spirit meets us in those moments. Our prayers change us in ways that we do not even know how to ask. And our prayers change the world around us as we ask God to move on our behalf in ways that we would’t have even known to ask for.