Today is the National Day of Prayer. I love that. I’m also discomfited by it, a little.
I’m discomfited by it because – as I’ve said time and again – I have an ambivalent relationship with prayer. I have an ambivalent relationship with prayer because I have an ambivalent relationship with faith, and with God, and because of all of those ambivalences, I sometimes struggle with what it means to pray. Am I actually asking God for guidance or peace or grace? Am I engaging in quiet but active reflection? Am I meditating?
I like to think that it’s some combination of the above – even in my moments of doubting God, I cling to the idea that God is nonetheless there, and listening – who among us does not want to be heard? – and it’s this thought, this feeling, that it is each one and all of these things that keeps me praying, even as I wring my hands about prayer and disavow certain kinds of prayer and wonder whether I might be doing something more effective than praying. Because there is beauty and force in quietness and reflection and searching conversation, even if that conversation sometimes seems – seems – one-sided.
So, yes, I pray. I am conflicted, ambivalent, confused, anxious about faith, but nevertheless, I pray. Even if it sometimes doesn’t actually look like prayer – even if it sometimes takes the form of focused, grateful, reflective attention upon the things that I cherish, like this…
And it nourishes me.