This article was originally published in the October 24, 2019, edition of the Brunswick Beacon, and is reprinted with permission—Ed.
The day began with screams of dismay, annoyance, and downright anger at all that is not right with the world. Does that sound like hyperbole? Well, Hubby Dear often declares I speak hyperbolically. It is my caveat emptor! Let the reader/hearer beware and be aware of the depth of our truth as human beings.
That said, I return to my tale of woe. Water blasting from the showerhead found a tiny, open space between door and wall. A waterfall was now washing the floor instead of nicely preparing a heated entry for me. Obviously, it was not a disaster. There was no crucial need demanding the fury of my reaction. However, there was yet another need arising from the depths. It was the necessity for me to recognize what I had allowed to happen.
This had little or nothing to do with a showered floor. Instead, it demonstrated the fact that I had permitted arrival at a mountaintop of duties, sacrifices, obligations, tasks. I was permitting little things to overpower me. Ensconced on those heady heights, I lost perspective. I forgot how to pray. Moreover, I lost the reason for praying. I floundered in a sea of needs and was drowning in unshed tears. I forgot how to be the person God is always calling me to be.
More hyperbole, you say? You may well be accurate. Yet, these thoughts underpin the poetry of life. The outrageousness belies the gracious divinity we bear in our humble humanity and denies our true nature. Praying is more than saying words.
Those were not my thoughts or words as I vented my hatred of a showerhead which would not remain in its place. As I type these words, I become ever more aware of my identification with that wayward piece of plumbing. Am I not a similarly wandering entity? Do I not find tiny open spaces through which I blast my watery presence? Might these be perceptions begging prayerful attention? Praying is more than saying words.
The morning wore on, now showered with graced apologies to an ever-present Hubby Dear whose stern message yet rings in my ear: “All you need to do is say, ‘Jean, I need your help!’ and I will be there.”
I heard, “Ask and you shall receive. Knock and the door will open for you.” More than words, praying is receiving a promised presence.
The day’s schedule continued. In deep quiet, H.D. began his centering prayer, likely a sorely needed respite from the noise of the early morning. I picked up my own devotional resource to pray as I can. The calm quiet of a perfect Carolina day called me outside to sit in the soothing sounds of creation. Before long, those sounds were interrupted by the larger noise of an airplane. I looked up, searching the skies for a glimpse of the craft. Nothing was in sight. Another plane’s roar pierced the air. Again, nothing in sight. Was this a message for me, a special one to explore all the noise I had offered earlier?
Is God playing with me . . . or praying with me? Nothing . . . no one . . . in sight. What might I learn from this experience? I pondered long and hard. As suddenly as the invisible aircraft had come and gone, I received an instruction. “Listen for the sounds of divinity, even when you cannot see them. Pay attention to the noise in your life because it may deter you from the sound of silence. Know the power of prayer without words. Know the wordlessness of deep peace and profound joy. Concentrate on mercy and compassion. See the wonder of life washing over the floor of your being, entering into your life through the tiniest of openings.”
I was again learning in order to teach. I was experiencing what it means to follow before leading. I was discovering, yet again, that praying is more than saying words.
When I was a child, I was taught that “prayer is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God, to adore God, to thank God for God’s benefits, to ask God’s forgiveness, and to beg of God all the graces we need whether for soul or body.” It was, and is, a long sentence. It takes a lot of living and dying before one begins to understand the depth of prayerfulness. It means allowing God to be the up-lifter of what we think and carry deep within us. It means gaining a disposition that God’s presence is “adorable.” It means we become ever more grateful for it as we are filled with thanksgiving. It means recognizing our need to be forgiven and to forgive. It means we know in the core of our being that we need God to be alive.
Thus, to be in prayer is to bless all that is. A simple statement, to be sure. Yet, a lifelong challenge to be attentive, intentional listeners. Look to the skies, but also know God’s presence is often heard but not visible. Prayer is both loudly proclaimed and heard as a whisper. Prayer is seeing without hearing and hearing without seeing. Prayer is more verb than noun. It is ongoing, not static. It is words and wordlessness.
Prayer is active ministry and acknowledged rest. Prayer is discovered in times of delight and times of disaster. It is expressed in petitions, both individual and universal. To pray is to become a “pray-er.” It is to unveil who God is in our lives and who we are as God’s people.
In short, to pray is to experience being in relationship with God and all God’s creation, near and far, known and unknown, familiar and foreign, fearsome and friendly. It is to give and to get; to ask and receive; to be silent and to speak; to know and be known; to be impassioned and impatient. As true in all relationships, there will be mountaintop experiences and desert dryness, silences and speeches.
Above all and within all, praying is more than saying words. I can still ask you to say a little prayer for me.
Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives (a trilogy of scriptural meditations), lead volunteer chaplain at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer, and grandmother of four. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.