No one in the little Iowa town recognized the young family, escorted by the groom’s brother, as they walked toward the front of the chapel. Entering the pew they immediately knelt in prayer. After the wedding one of the guests was overheard inquiring about the very religious family from out of town.
I grew up in a Methodist home, the eldest daughter of faith-filled parents who in the early 1960’s helped plant a still thriving Methodist church. I prayed the prayers of childhood. I recited grace before meals. I joined the congregation in prayers during services. As a child I believed that prayers were poems I memorized to say at the appropriate time.
As a teen, I was in awe of the church youth group leaders who, sitting on the floor in Parish Hall or around a camp fire, could pray with passion, joy and tangible faith. To this day, my spirit is unable to pray aloud, in public, expressing the collective thoughts and requests of those gathered, but I am thankful that others can.
Prayer, for me, is private and one of the most intimate and personal ways I express my faith. Over the years, I have come to understand prayer to be a conversation with God. Whether we say the words aloud, write them in a journal, or speak them silently in our heart, we are talking to God in a never ending conversation; an exchange in which we must listen more than we speak.
So while I will not be the one to volunteer to pray aloud in a gathering, I offer silent prayers for the heart of the frazzled mother in the grocery line ahead of me, I pray for the man begging for offerings along the roadway, and I listen prayerfully for the voice of God whispering in my ear and nudging my spirit through the day.
And sometimes, when I kneel in church, I think back to the day I walked into that little Iowa chapel as a 12 year old girl and I can still hear my mother’s voice telling my little sister and me to kneel down and thank God for bringing us safely to the wedding after a terrifying emergency landing in a tiny little airplane.
“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”
~ Saint Teresa of Calcutta