Five years ago, during my time in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) as a chaplain, I made it one of my goals to become better at praying out loud. Now, until that point, I never felt confident in my public, impromptu/extemporaneous praying. My prayers never felt strong or fancy enough for others to hear.
During my CPE summer, I had many opportunities to pray aloud with the nursing home residents and their families. By the time the summer had concluded, I felt much better in my public prayers.
That doesn’t mean I still don’t get nervous praying out loud…
Recently, I wrote a prayer for online publication. One individual decided to call the prayer “goofy” in the comment section. They also said that the prayer “seems like a Facebook status with the word ‘God’ placed in front of it.”
People are allowed to think what they wish about my writing. However, if I am speaking from a genuine place of concern, is it “goofy?” And are many of our status updates just words of concern from our hearts? Don’t we want God to hear our status updates?
While it may seem there are goofy prayers being said or written, any time people try to connect to God through words (spoken or written), it’s a prayer. Any time we hold the ones we love, fear, dislike and don’t know in our hearts, it’s prayer. When we connect with the Divine in an effort to strengthen our ties to God, our neighbor and ourselves, it’s prayer. So what words work? And what words fall short?
I don’t believe God cares what words we use when we pray. I think God’s concern is that we take moments to reach out – sending love and healing into the universe.
So say what you want to say to God. God wants to hear it in any form. You can sing it, sign it or dance the prayer. Fluffy language will not make the prayer come true any faster. God accepts both frills and simplicity in prayers. If others think your prayer is stupid, God doesn’t. Keep praying – just as you are. God is bigger than any combination of words.