I have no idea what to say. This is the truth. Before I decided to write what you are now reading I had written something entirely different. It was good, at least I think it was, and you might’ve thought so too. I just didn’t believe in it anymore.
To tell you the truth, with the everydayness of life and the impactfulness of world events lately, my brain has no idea which way to go. I feel like I have something to say and yet nothing to say simultaneously. I’m observing the world, participating in it, forming opinions and feelings. With a little wordsmithing I could take what I witness, along with my experiences, and create a moving post. Which would garner Facebook “likes” confirming what I wrote is actually being read. And that who I am is somehow linked to the number of people engaged in what I write. All this, of course, affirming I am in fact intelligent, prophetic, and somehow relevant!
But instead I write… this…because, if I’m honest, the complexities of the world versus the profundity of my insignificance makes my writing…inconsequential.
A second ago I giggled. I’m doing it again, right now, I’m giggling. Why the giggles? I had an epiphany: What I wrote in the lines above are much like the struggles I have about prayer.
There are days I marvel at whatever it is that needs prayer. Sometimes words aren’t enough making prayer feel insufficient. What I see on the news and the circumstances of people’s lives often appear too large for one prayer from me. Plus there are my own issues I feel require some spiritual attention. I wonder if God even listens to all the complaining and toiling I do, or is God annoyed: “It’s Damian again, everyone hide! Gabriel turnout the lights so it looks like no one’s home!”
I’m clumsy when I pray, not very focused, often distracted. I try to concentrate. I even have strategies to keep me on task. I maintain a gratitude journal, I carry a little notebook and I have an an app to help me remember what to pray for, I review my day before I go to bed, I pray the rosary, and I discovered Pope Francis’ Five Finger Prayer. With all these methods at the ready I continue to feel as if I’m merely going through the motions of prayer instead of actually praying. But mostly I get so overwhelmed at the quality and quantity of prayer I don’t pray at all.
The piece I wrote before the one you’re reading now I composed in a notebook. When I was beginning my career as a playwright I couldn’t afford a computer. The first plays I wrote were done by hand and typed out during lunch hour at work. Everything else came from discipline and quiet nights at home engaging my imagination. I took it seriously. I still do, but the deliberate and earnest way I was pursuing my training as a writer pushed me through distractions, boredoms, dry patches, and moments of bad writing.
I pray and I write because I want to, even if all I do is bumble around. They’ve carried me through times when my head overtakes my heart, or when I’m feeling confused, or out of sync. Plus, they center me completely, keeping me calm, at ease. For both to succeed requires a bit of silence. Maybe making space for prayerful silence the way I do for writing is actually one in the same. Why haven’t I thought of this before?!
Here’s an idea, and perhaps you can join me.
This week I’ll sit in silence for as long as I can. I won’t time myself. I’ll have no plan. I’ll put it in my schedule, stick to it, and keep it simple; simple silence, no tricks and no talking. Often times the thirst in my heart to pray is stronger than the actual act of praying, so I’ll ask ask God to hear my heart rather than use my words. Then I’ll write my prayers.
Sure, this will not change the complexities of what I want to take to prayer, but at least my prayer won’t feel phony. There’s no right or wrong way to pray, this I know. Learning and incorporating payer more deeply into life’s usual pace takes practice, a dose of fortitude, even some patience. The same is true for writing. But responding to the desire to pray authentically is what I hope for the most.
The cover image, from Flickr user Martin 0_0b, can be found here.