Welcome to Lent, Reader.
I feel a little surprised by it this year; perhaps because I’ve been really preoccupied with other stuff, or perhaps because I feel like I’ve been wandering the wilderness for a while already (don’t worry, I won’t go totally emo on you), but I haven’t quite settled into the fact that we’ve switched out of Epiphany yet.
Lent Madness, however, has begun. I’m rooting for Hildegard, or maybe Cuthbert.
Because I need some structure in life right now, I declare Lent to be a time for a series—specifically, a series on prayer. It’s the bedrock of Christianity, in many ways. We go there first when something happens: “you’re in my prayers,” “I’ll pray for you,” “I ask for your prayers.” I’ve been drenched in prayer through the healing process of my ear (which, by the by, is behind schedule but doing well according to the doctors. I got some of my restrictions scaled back, which makes me happy). We talk about “prayer warriors,” about “the power of prayer,” about its necessity and its foundational aspect in this relationship with a less-than-chatty God. I’ve asked for your prayers more than once, I know.
But it takes us a minute—it takes me a minute, at least—to talk about what it is to have nothing to say, or to bring only anger to the conversation, or to recognize that being silent is not the same as listening. Thankfully, these aren’t topics that are never discussed; publications like Relevant Magazine and Plough take a run at it, folks like Jan Richardson and Anne Lamott write about it. We as a culture recognize the fight of this prayer thing, and talk about it.
Because we want it to work, you see. We want to go to a God Who listens and pour out our shit and feel better afterward. We want to beseech our Mother to tenderly hold friends in pain and sorrow and fix it. We want to hear that there is a plan, a point, a purpose to us running around down here making mistakes over and over again.
We want relationship. So we pray, and we hope, and we try to find silver linings in the rough patches when God seems to be elsewhere, when the friend dies despite a whole nunnery being on the prayer chain, when that job that seemed like such a great fit falls through and we are left at the beginning again. We talk about sitting down to pray as though it’s hard now but it gets better, just keep working at it, like Pilates or Sudoku puzzles.
I make no secret, hardy Reader, that much of this blog is my giving myself space to figure out my own things and asking you to come along for the ride as accountability and reflection. So I’m taking this Lent to preach at myself (a phrase that terrifies me considering the very real possibility of actually preaching at anyone some day) about prayer. My prayer life is currently a bit of a mess because of some places I’m flat out not allowing God to dwell, and having gotten my forehead all ashed up this past Wednesday I am very aware that that shit won’t fly. “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return,” Prudence said to me as he traced his blackened thumb in the cross. “May God take the middle,” I surprised myself by responding. And oh, how He would like to—if I would simply get out of the way and let Him.
“Talk to Me,” He says gently while I’m throwing yet another tantrum. “Do not shut Me out.”
Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17, JUB)