This morning, I’m tired.
I feel so weary in prayer. I don’t know how to focus. I feel like there’s no inspiration in me, no spark, like the air I’m breathing is not charging me like it should.
I open my Bible and flip through the pages of the Psalms. Nothing.
That’s not right…of course there’s so much for inspiration! There’s Psalm 47, of praise to the Supreme Ruler. There’s Psalm 91, of protection and trust. There’s Psalm 103, of the love of God. There’s one of my favorites, Psalm 104 of the glory of creation. These are just a few of the ones that normally speak to me, but I feel weary of reading them this morning, for whatever reason. The words look and feel as unfulfilling as the grey light around me.
I flip listlessly to the Gospel of John, to the Gospel reading for the day. Then I realize I don’t have the energy to try and “figure out” another passage this morning. I don’t feel particularly open to new inspiration or insights right now.
Yet I know that’s not right, either. I know that I shouldn’t be trying to “figure out” the Gospels, or seeking anything in particular from this moment with God.
Yet this morning, prayer doesn’t seem to be coming easily. (Is this familiar to you? Oh, just keep reading!)
I feel like I’m slipping back into old habits. I feel like I just want to read the Gospel and move on. I feel impatient, restless, unable to settle or center myself. Above all, I feel exhausted – and the miracles I sift through seem dull, distant, rather like the sky that’s slowly lightening through the leaves above and in front of me.
Like the sky. The sky…
And then it dawns on me.
I’m not here to try and figure anything out right now. That’s not why I’m sitting down in this treehouse in my front yard to pray.
I realize maybe that’s why I’m feeling uninspired and bland. “Figuring things out” is not the point of prayer. Sitting down in expectation of getting a new feeling, or an insight about this certain parable, or a new understanding of that particular passage…that’s not really the full extent of prayer. That has its place, sure, and it’s important to ask God for enlightenment. It’s quite appropriate to seek a deeper understanding of Scripture by explicitly asking God to be open to a new way of seeing his Word. But (and please excuse the rather crude analogy) sitting down for a certain experience of prayer is rather like sitting down on the toilet and waiting for a bowel movement. Wait, wait, wait, then get up when it’s over, wash your hands, and move on with your day.
All I can say about that is…yikes.
Prayer is not about sitting down with the expectation of finding anything, or waiting for God to reveal Godself, or for anything specific to happen at all.
Prayer is a release, for sure. It is an opening, and certainly there is a greater sense of understanding and awareness that comes from dedicated prayer. But prayer is, above all, about stepping back from expectation.
You may have heard someone, somewhere along the line, say “Let go, and let God.” Perhaps it might be so cliché it doesn’t really hit home any longer, but that’s the best way to describe it. Prayer is letting go, and letting God.
This morning, as I find myself vaguely irritated and listless, waiting for something to happen in my prayer, I come back to this realization. My prayer is not about what needs to happen or what I want to happen. Prayer is not about opening to a passage or a story that suits my particular mood or moment, and sitting there sweating and huffing and puffing, eventually squeezing out enlightenment that I can then go off and share with others. Let all of that go.
Prayer is about letting go.
So what, then? What am I sitting down in prayer to do? I have to be doing something, after all. Right?
As I sit with my feelings of restlessness, exhaustion, and listlessness, I realize that the answer is both yes, and no.
Prayer is about coming into the moment, as it is. Prayer is connecting with God, as God is, right now.
Yes. Yes, that’s huge. It’s huge, but it’s also small. How is that?
It’s huge, because it’s God. Yet it’s small, because it all happens right here, right now, by letting this moment be. Prayer is one hundred percent realization and acceptance of the completeness of this very moment. This one. Right now.
It’s a tiny moment, sure, just this very instant. Yet, it’s this very instant.
I set my Bible down next to my coffee and close my eyes. I’m tired, but I inhale, and I feel a little more alert. I exhale. I tune in to the smell of the tree, to the leaves, to the air. It is fresh this morning, because there’s a breeze. On it, I can smell the promise of rain.
I tune in to the sound of the breeze and to the leaves responding to the breeze. I tune in to the feeling of the leaves, in me. I feel the breeze across my skin, and I take another breath. I feel slightly more alert, and I say a silent thank you. Thank you for this morning air, for its coolness. That certainly won’t last long, not at all, and so I am grateful I have this moment to experience it.
I can smell my coffee, too, and I am especially grateful for that. It’s a new bag of coffee, freshly opened, and it’s strong. I learned recently about the health benefits of coconut oil added to java, and I feel the gratitude swelling as the refreshing aroma of coconut weaves in and out of the other smells. There’s something instantly healing about the smell of coconut, something that just puts the world right.
I smile at that. The world is right, after all. I’m tired, but that’s part of what my world has to offer right now. It’s part of the completeness of it, and so I say a silent thank you for that, too.
This very moment. A tiny moment. A huge sacredness.
I repeat the words, drawing another deep breath and letting it out. Two words, an inhale for one and an exhale for the other. Thank. In. You. Out.
I smile, because I can’t help it. Yes, I’m still tired, that hasn’t changed. But I’m happy.
I open my eyes. The grey has lightened to a slightly off-white that borders on yellow, and now I can more clearly see the tree leaves around me, the ground below me, and the street outside. I see people passing, a few here and there. These are the early risers, those beating the rush and crush of the heaviest morning commute in a few hours.
I can see clearly now, and I feel calm. I feel connected, and I feel o so very grateful.
Yes, the world is right after all. This moment is right. It’s a tiny moment in time, but it’s everything.