If prayer were a landscape, what would it look like?
Would it be busy, like a city? Skyscrapers with little windows, some lit up brightly even in the middle of the night, where you might cram wishes and dreams and fears as if into an apothecary’s box, one at a time, whenever they pop up? Names of people rattled off as you toss and turn at night, the City of Prayer populated by needs. Vicki is sick. Miles is lonely. Ron needs hope. Are these requests racing by on freeways or crawling along in traffic jams that don’t move? Is prayer congested? Angry? Confusing?
Or is prayer more rough and craggy like the cliffs in a Bronte novel? Lonely and empty and often dark? Do you feel sometimes like the sound of your own voice is the only thing you can hear, echoing off rocks and dissipating into the mist like even more mist? Do you wonder if you are the only one there, with the wind whipping your dress around your ankles as you shout into nothing?
Do we meet God in a tundra? Is it cold and dead, like winter feels? I wonder if dreams can curl up like tulip bulbs and survive, even thrive, during long months of cold when it’s all you can do to tick off the passing of the days.
But I live by the ocean. I love water, and had both of my babies in huge tubs of it. I like ocean waves, the ins and outs of them. The regularity and yet the surprising unpredictability of them. The knowledge that I am small and that God is big. I want prayer to be like the beach, where he tells us he’s numbered every single grain of sand.
But if I am honest, prayer is all of these locales. It is sometimes busy, sometimes lonely, sometimes warm and comforting and sweet.
The Apostle Paul tells us to pray without ceasing, and I wonder often what he means. I can do hardly anything without ceasing. Except maybe worry. Or watch Netflix. So I keep praying, when and how I can. I offer up my traffic jams, my crags, and my icy tundras along with the perfect crests and swells that whisper, as T.S. Eliot once wrote, “all shall be well.”
“Lord, hear our prayer,” we say in church. Lord, hear my prayer.
*Image: Cow & Calf Rocks, Ilkley Moor – Credit: Tom Blackwell