Life is the matter of words. It is the collection, the compilation, the composition of letters ordered and then defined by punctuation marks. We speak with both the end and the receiver in mind. We speak to move and to move on again and again. Thus, we can no more stop talking than we can stop breathing. It, too, is the substance and source of life.
Life is a matter of words: good and bad, thoughtful or ill- conceived, numerous and few. We are always in search of meaning, always looking for the right words to say to those we love and to hear from those who love us. Without these words, spoken or unspoken, our lives have no meaning and are without the ability to move, having no bridge to travel from one day to the next. Yes, we carry words but they also carry us.
The apostle Paul would agree as he describes the saints at Corinth as letters, “living epistles” (Second Corinthians 3.2). We are writing as well as being written upon. Those we speak to and who speak to us are our composers. So, who is writing on you?
And what of our words, our conversations with God? Is it on- going or sporadic, savored sweet like warm cookies and reserved for Sunday morning services only? Is it quick and routine, a brief greeting to acknowledge His presence? Or, do we sit down and slow down to have a conversation, seeing His words in the trees with hands outstretched, the sky blue and clear or cloudy and dark, feeling His words beneath us, the earth immovable?
Unfortunately, despite the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we wonder how do we relate to God when God cannot relate to us. We somehow forget every single day that God knows what it means and how it feels to be human as both Creator and Created. Our forgetfulness makes praying hard.
Talking to the Divine is humbling and perhaps for some humiliating, remembering who we have been or what we have recently or consistently done can shame us into a self- instituted silence. Shamed and embarrassed, we find ourselves in the presence of the Word and at a loss for them. Talking to the Invisible and yet seen can be frightening as we cannot see the impact of our words on His face. Consequently, we don’t know when to start or if we should stop.
After a conversation with God, we might be left wondering, “Did God understand what I said? Did He hear me? Does He want to hear from me again?”
Yes, praying is hard but it becomes strenuous when we don’t talk to God every day. So behind in our words to Him and for Him and with Him, it can seem impossible to catch up on conversations, confessions, thanksgivings, listening, being. Consequently, we speak to Him as if rattling off a list. “Did you get…?” Did you see about…?” Check. Check. Check.
It may be even more difficult when we pray hard but feel that a need has gone unmet. In times of suffering and loss, when God seems to have gotten His answer wrong, it can be laborious to find two words to say to God. But, it is in these occasions that we must pray hard and perhaps hardest. We must talk when we don’t feel like talking, talk it through, talk it out. And word- by- word, we are led to new, unexpected and unplanned words.
Praying is hard but this is the work of maturing and growing in and through the Word. Ann Voscamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are, says that this is how we come to understand the world. We are to “wear the lens of the Word, to read his writing in the world.”
Prayer is a conversation and God is already speaking through His Word. He has provided us with “conversation starters” so as not to make praying so hard.