The other day I spotted a good friend in Fuller’s bookstore: he was browsing among the books and I was ordering a coffee. I walked over to say hello, and we talked about the books on fixed-hour prayer he was considering. Having endured a deep personal loss in the last year, this friend said that he had struggled with the ability to pray and had needed someone else’s words to use during this difficult season. Phyllis Tickle’s fine works had become his companion, and he was looking to expand his collection.
I nodded as he spoke, because I had negotiated a similar landscape: on the heels of what felt like an uncanny string of disappointments and difficulties, I too had struggled to pray. And while he had found that having other people’s words to pray had made all the difference, my grace came in the package of a three-year-old.
I described Mercy’s insistence and persistence in asking me to pray for her all of the time: “My daughter taught me to pray again,” I concluded.
Scripted prayers. Prayers assigned to the hours of the day. Repetition and requirement. Sometimes prayer is not about what we are feeling, believing, understanding. Sometimes prayer is a going through the motions sort of thing that over time carves out the space for living water to finally wash over you again.
“Pray for me, Mommy.” Over, and over, and over again, this question has pulled me back to a place of talking with God. And while the prayers have been short and largely repetitive (“please heal Mercy’s owie”), they have been the immersion that brought that other language back to my brain, heart and lips.